Opinion

NOONAN | Campaign committees hide behind nondescript names

Author: Paula Noonan - October 8, 2018 - Updated: October 8, 2018

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Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

Colorado’s elections have attracted $100 million in contributions from around the nation. Right now, the expenditure side of the tally is out of balance with contributions. Campaign committees have committed $110 million to the election season.

Luke Ragland of Ready Colorado gets the prize for the most interesting campaign finance committee name: Blank Check Blatant Deception, opposing Amendment 73 for funding public schools. Blank Check has $728,899 to make sure the constitutional amendment doesn’t receive a 55 percent super majority vote.

Great Ed Colorado, a nonprofit supporting Amendment 73, has to rally that 55 percent majority because of the Raise the Bar constitutional amendment passed in 2016 supported by Kent Thiry from DaVita, the kidney dialysis company.

This year, Thiry is supporting the anti-gerrymandering Amendments Y and Z with Pat Stryker, who both gave $600,000 to Fair Maps Colorado, a reasonably descriptive campaign finance committee name.

Less clear are the numerous other committee names used to support initiatives and candidates. When the committees don’t contribute the money directly to candidates, they control how the money is spent.  Here are some favorites.

Better Colorado Now has $2.25 million to support state Treasurer Walker Stapleton that includes $500,000 from the Colorado Taxpayers Advocate Fund.

Colorado Campaign for Jobs and Opportunity, a pro-business and anti-union committee, is helping Stapleton with $1.35 million, much of the money coming from the Workforce Fairness Institute in D.C.

Good Jobs for Colorado has $3.82 million.  The Sixteen Thirty Fund from D.C. that’s supported by wealthy entrepreneurs, pitched $920,000 to Good Jobs to help elect U.S. Rep. Jared Polis in the governor’s race. Polis’s own committee has over $20 million, much of it from his own pocket.

Coloradoans Creating Opportunities has $625,000.  It received $500,000 from the National Education Association to help Democratic candidates.

Our Colorado Values supports state House Democratic candidates with $2.28 million.  It received $400,000 from the Sixteen Thirty fund that’s also supporting Polis as well as $200,000 from Education Reform Now out of New York.

Colorado Fair Share Action adds to Democratic candidate support, receiving almost $200,000 from Coloradoans Creating Opportunities (see above), which received that $500,000 from the National Education Association.

Coloradans for Coloradans supports Proposition 110, the sales tax for transportation funding.  This committee is primarily funded by business interests and has ginned up $5.15 million.  It’s trying to defeat a competing initiative sponsored by the Colorado Independence Institute.

No doubt the biggest campaign finance committee is Protect Colorado, aka Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence – the three  E’s. This behemoth gathered over $30 million to defeat the statutory Proposition 112 on oil and gas drilling setbacks. It has spent down $20 million already.

Six energy companies, including Anadarko, Noble Energy, PDC Energy, Extraction Oil, SRC Energy, and DCP Midstream, as well as the Colorado Petroleum Council, have put in multiple millions each.   Protect Colorado pitched $2.7 million to the Committee for Colorado’s Shared Heritage that supports mineral property rights.

Colorado Rising, the sponsor of Proposition 112, gathered over $700,000 in contributions, but about $600,000 went toward its successful petition signature gathering.  It has $78,000 left compared to Protect Colorado’s $10.2 million.

Colorado voters, given the upcoming advertising blasts, will learn to appreciate the many campaign finance committees that support Colorado’s values, jobs, opportunities, schools, roads, bridges, bike paths, health, taxes, environment, economy, and maps. Their messages may be radically different, but no one will know that from their names.

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.