With little more than a week to go before ballots are counted in Colorado’s 2022 primary elections, newly filed federal disclosure reports show a tangled web of dark money groups and deep-pocketed donors spending heavily to influence key congressional races.
Those groups include a brand new super PAC, Democratic Colorado, that has spent more than $2.4 million on a controversial effort to raise the profile of far-right state Rep. Ron Hanks, who is viewed as a weaker general-election opponent for incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet than Hanks’ primary rival, Denver construction CEO Joe O’Dea.
Meanwhile, in the newly created 8th Congressional District — likely to be the state’s most competitive race this year — state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer of Weld County has seen her financial firepower nearly tripled by outside super PAC spending as she hopes to emerge victorious from a contentious four-way Republican primary and face Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo in November.
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And despite a raft of challengers from both parties, controversial first-term U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s $5.2 million fundraising haul so far this cycle puts her in a strong position to win reelection in a 3rd District that leans more Republican under the state’s new congressional map.
Under federal law, candidates for Congress are required to file pre-primary financial reports with the Federal Election Commission no later than 12 days before the election. Colorado’s primary election is June 28, though voters across the state began receiving their mail ballots as early as the week of June 6.
The $13.2 million in contributions reported by Bennet’s campaign through June 8 is by far the highest total among candidates for federal office this year in Colorado — though it’s less than the $16 million raised at the same point in 2020 by former GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, who was unseated by Sen. John Hickenlooper later that year. While most prominent political observers forecast Bennet as the favorite in November, a challenging midterm electoral environment for Democrats could spell trouble for his quest to win a third full Senate term.
O’Dea is Bennet’s best-funded rival, having raised nearly $1.2 million in contributions from individuals and PACs, along with another $1.1 million in personal contributions and loans to his campaign. He’s also benefited from at least $595,000 in independent expenditures from the American Policy Fund, a federal super PAC supporting his candidacy.
Super PACs are authorized under federal law to receive unlimited donations from individuals and corporations. FEC disclosures show that the American Policy Fund has received five- and six-figure contributions from a dozen donors in Colorado and Texas, including a combined $200,000 from Golden-based construction firm APC Resources and its CEO, Jeff Keller.
Meanwhile, Hanks has raised a total of just $89,740 from outside donors, and supplemented that figure with $35,100 in personal loans. But he may be poised to benefit from Democratic Colorado's last-minute ploy, which includes a TV ad nominally attacking Hanks as "too conservative," and another highlighting O'Dea's past donations to Democratic campaigns. After registering with the FEC on June 2, Democratic Colorado won't be required to disclose the sources of its funding until July 20, weeks after the GOP primary is decided.
U.S. House races
Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo has raised $846,939 in her campaign for the new 8th District seat, and avoided having to spend some of that haul on a contested primary after several potential rivals failed to qualify for the ballot.
That's not the case for the four Republicans vying for their party's nod. Kirkmeyer has raised more than $330,000 through her campaign, but may have the edge in the GOP primary thanks to two major super PACs spending heavily to support her.
Colorado Conservatives for Retaking Congress, Let America Work and Americans for Prosperity Action, the group funded largely by conservative billionaire Charles Koch and other wealthy GOP donors, have spent a combined $636,290 to support Kirkmeyer and oppose two of her opponents, Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine and Thornton Mayor Jan Kulmann.
Two Democratic super PACs, 314 Action and the House Majority PAC, have reported last-minute spending totaling $247,980 in the 8th District GOP primary, in an apparent effort to aid Saine, a hardline conservative and former state lawmaker who has cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.
In the race for the 7th District seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, state Sen. Brittany Pettersen has a fundraising advantage over a trio of possible GOP opponents.
Thanks in part to a $500,000 personal loan, Arvada economist Tim Reichert has outspent his top rival, former oil and gas executive and onetime Senate candidate Erik Aadland, in the Republican primary. Aadland, however, has benefited from over $260,000 in independent expenditures by super PAC For Colorado's Future, a newly-created group whose donors won't be disclosed until next month. Far-right candidate Laurel Imer trailed far behind both Aadland and Reichert with just $85,770 in reported campaign contributions.
In the 3rd District, the $5.2 million raised by Boebert's campaign this cycle is by far the highest donation total received by Colorado's seven incumbent House members — nearly three times the size of the next-largest haul, Democratic Rep. Jason Crow's $1.8 million.
Her primary opponent, GOP state Sen. Don Coram, has raised a little over $226,000. He has also been aided by at least $42,799 in outside expenditures by a new super PAC, Better Than Boebert, whose donors aren't required to be disclosed until after the primary.
In a three-way Democratic primary race, Sol Sandoval, a community organizer from Pueblo, has raised the most campaign funds from outside donors, reporting over $906,000 in receipts. But Adam Frisch, a former Aspen city councilman, has more to spend after loaning his campaign more than $2.2 million since January, FEC disclosures show.
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