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Polis, Stapleton hold fundraising lead for Colorado governor

Author: Marianne Goodland - May 22, 2018 - Updated: May 23, 2018

Supporters of U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis cheer from the stage as Polis, not pictured, accepted his nomination for governor at the 2018 Colorado Democratic State Assembly at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield on April 14, 2018.
Photo by Andy Colwell for the Gazette

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis has continued to pump millions of dollars of his own money into his run for the Democratic nod for Colorado’s next governor, and Republican state Treasurer Walker Stapleton leads Republicans, according to the latest round of campaign finance reports.

As of May 17, the Boulder Democrat and internet entrepreneur has now put $7.85 million into his campaign, with a recent contribution of $1.5 million on May 3, according to the reports, which were due at midnight Monday.

Polis has capped individual donations at $100, which brought in another $176,000 over the past year. In the most recent report period from May 4 to May 17, Polis received just over $10,000 in contributions.

Where is he spending it? If you haven’t seen his ads, you’re about to. Polis has spent $4.5 million on advertising, with the bulk of the money ($3.65 million) going to The Campaign Group, a Philadelphia-based company that works on behalf of Democratic candidates. The company says it creates ads that win tough elections. In the past three weeks, Polis has spent $963,300 with The Campaign Group for media buys.

The three other Democratic candidates for governor — former state Sen. Michael Johnston, former state Treasurer Cary Kennedy and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, all of Denver — have collectively raised less than Polis. Between the three, they’ve raised just under $5 million. Johnston leads the pack, with $2.1 million in contributions.

Notable among Johnston donors: more than 9,500 have given the maximum of $1,150 allowed for an election cycle. Also notable among Johnston donors is the contributions that come from out of state. A review of the first 200 showed fewer than half were listed as Colorado residents. Between May 4 and May 17, the most recent reporting period, Johnston received just under $47,000 in donations.

Kennedy has now raised just over $1.75 million in her bid for the governor’s mansion. While Johnston’s donations show only one contribution outside of individual donors — from the state Democratic party — Kennedy’s biggest donors have been teachers’ unions, with more than $72,000 in total contributions. Most of her individual donations come from Colorado residents. Kennedy received $105,000 in contributions between May 4 and May 17.

Lynne, the last entrant to the race, lags far behind, with $1.04 million raised so far. In the last three weeks, she put $100,000 of her own money into the race. Coupled with an early donation of $60,000, Lynne’s biggest donor has been herself. She took in $17,511 in the past two weeks.

When it comes to fundraising, the spread between first and fourth among Republican gubernatorial candidates isn’t as dramatic, nor have the dollars been as prolific.

Stapleton leads the pack, with $1.4 million in contributions to date. He’s been his campaign’s biggest donor, too, with $274,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. He took in $40,000 in contributions over the past two weeks.

Businessman Victor Mitchell, who has loaned his campaign $3.3 million, took in $5,785 in the most recent reporting period. He’s followed by businessman Doug Robinson, with $473,000 in total donations — $22,000 in the most recent reporting period. Former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez brings up the rear, with $21,000 in donations — $24,000 in loans and $278 in contributions in the past two weeks.

Big money in the governor’s race is also being spent by political action committees that back some of the candidates — led by Better Colorado Now, which backs Stapleton, and Frontier Fairness, which supports Johnston.

Better Colorado Now, an independent expenditure committee (IEC), received a $50,000 donation from Stapleton’s mother, Dorothy, during the past reporting period. That was the PAC’s largest donation so far for May, for a total of $62,500. IECs are prohibited by law from coordinating with candidate campaigns.

The IEC dropped another $74,000 in media buys in the past two weeks on top of the $100,000 it spent on advertising in April.

Another PAC in the governor’s race, Frontier Fairness, which backs Johnston, leads all comers with more than $4 million in donations and from big names with big money. The PAC’s biggest donors so far have been former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, with $1 million; Stephen and Susan Mandel, also with $1 million total (he’s a hedge fund manager who backs charter schools); and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, with $1 million. The PAC took in $171,000 in the most recent reporting period.

Its biggest expenditure in the past two weeks was $368,500 to a direct mail company in Iowa: Wildfire Contact.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Frontier Fairness backed Polis. It backs Johnston.

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.