Gardner’s Annual Ski Weekend Fundraiser Features Corporate Heavyweights

Skiing in Colorado is pretty expensive these days, but even the priciest day on the slopes isn’t nearly as expensive as skiing with Sen. Cory Gardner’s family and friends.

The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, slope-side at Beaver Creek. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

For $2,500 per person or $3,000 per family ($5,000 for corporate PACs), lobbyists and political consultants could bring partners and kids to join the Senator, his family and his staff at the Ritz Carlton hotel, slope-side at Beaver Creek, one of Colorado’s fanciest ski destinations. This year was Gardner campaign’s fifth annual ski trip fundraiser.

The fundraiser has its own logo.

Unfortunately for the guests, Gardner himself was unable to be there in person. According to one attendee, lobbyist Travis Brown, impeachment hearings kept Gardner “chained to his desk” over the weekend. His campaign spokesman did not return an email asking to confirm the reason for his absence.

In his absence, attendees were able to mingle and chat with Gardner family members, campaign staff and, of course, each other. Over 70 people (not counting partners and children) are listed on a guest list obtained by the Colorado Times Recorder.

In addition to household names like Coca-Cola, Facebook, FedEx and MillerCoors, representatives from the energy and health care industries comprised the largest portions of the event attendance list. Companies included Koch Industries, BP America, Duke Energy, Xcel Energy, Next Era Energy (the nation’s largest electric utility holding company).

United Health, Humana, and the Federation of American Hospitals were among the members of the for-profit health care industry. A lobbyist for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade association for companies with health plans governed by Medicare and Medicaid, was also on the list. AHIP is a co-founder of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, the advocacy group behind a six-figure ad campaign opposing a proposal to add a state option to Colorado health insurance exchange.

Another notable name on the guest list: Facebook’s Director of Public Policy and chief Senate lobbyist Myriah Jordan, who in 2016 signed a public letter opposing the possibility of then-candidate Trump’s presidency calling him “fundamentally dishonest” and predicting he would “use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe.” Jordan did not immediately respond to a Facebook message asking to confirm her attendance.

The Beaver Creek weekend fundraiser was paid for by Gardner For Colorado, a joint fundraising committee comprising the Gardner campaign and his leadership political action committee, Project West PAC. Four of the top ten combined contributors to Gardner’s 2020 campaign and Project West PAC were on the guest list: DISH Network ($77,000), NextERA Energy ($56,500), Xcel Energy ($52,150), and Deloitte, LLC ($46,250).

A phone call to Gardner campaign fundraiser Katie Behnke was not immediately returned.

To see the full attendance list, grouped roughly by industry, click here for the original article on the Colorado Times Recorder.

Gardner’s Annual Christmas Party Returns to the Brown Palace Tonight

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Senator Cory Gardner has been hard to find in Colorado this year. This evening, however, he and his family will be at Denver’s historic Brown Palace for his annual Christmas Open Home party.

According to the invitation, Gardner says he’s looking forward to seeing his fellow Coloradans come out to show support for our Western Values and get into the holiday spirit.

The holiday gathering is officially hosted by Gardner’s political action committee, Project West PAC. The committee spent over $1.2 million during the last election, including $430,000 in direct contributions to federal candidates. Recipients included the other three Republican members of the Colorado delegation, and 44 of Gardner’s GOP colleagues in the U.S. Senate.

The PAC is managed by the Starboard Group, the fundraising firm of choice for Colorado Republicans. The Starboard Group team tweeted a picture of themselves from the party last year.

The photo included their intern at the time, right-wing social media personality, Ashley St. Clair, who earlier this year was dropped by Turning Point USA for partying with white nationalists.


House Minority Leader Attacks Fellow Republicans Over Fundraising Groups

(This is going swimmingly — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville took to the airwaves to attack his Republican colleagues last week. He dismissed the fundraising efforts of his former state Reps. Dan Thurlow and Polly Lawerence, calling them “the JV squad.”

The pair of former legislators, considered “establishment” Republicans compared to the far-right Minority Leader, launched an independent expenditure committee to support GOP legislative candidates. Former Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and other Republicans have since joined the group, Friends Of The Future, as advisors.

During a Sept. 6 appearance on KNUS 710AM’s Chuck & Julie Show, Neville mocked the moderate politicians for imitating his small-dollar fundraising prowess:

“They’re kind of like the JV squad reuniting, wearing their letter jackets and talking about all the great things they did. Imitation is the biggest form of flattery, so in this case they’re seeing how successful we’re being with developing a small dollar donor base so we don’t have to be totally dependent on these large donations from corporations or other big donors…” House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, KNUS, 9/6/19

Asked by KNUS host Julie Hayden which Republican fundraising entities conservatives should support, Neville briefly mentioned his official House 527 Values First Colorado, but quickly moved on to promote “Recall Colorado,” another 527 Neville and his brother Joe created, ostensibly to separate their recall fundraising from their regular election cycle work.

Values First Colorado is the official House 527 and then we also have We’re transforming that into small dollar donations that we’re really trying to turn into a base that we can hand off towards future election cycles so that’s really main effort that we’ve put into it. It’s becoming Take Back Colorado, now that we’re getting past the recall cycles and getting closer to 2020, we’re running out of time to initiate a lot of these recalls. So that’s what we’re going to transform that into. So, there you go.”

Neville’s claim that he’s transforming Recall Colorado into “Take Back Colorado” (TBC) as part of an effort to shift from “recall cycles” to “future election cycles” is interesting for a few reasons.


El Paso GOP Reportedly Paying Charlie Kirk $18,000 To Speak At Fundraiser

(We’d have done it for half that amount! — Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The El Paso County Republican Party is reportedly paying a five-figure speaking fee to Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk, the keynote speaker at its annual fundraising dinner this Saturday.

As of chair Tamra Farah’s resignation last week, the party had sold just 150 tickets to the Sept. 7 event. In her resignation letter, Farah specifically listed “tactics” opposing her chairmanship by members of the GOP Central Committee, including: “withholding a potentially free speaker” and “suppressing Lincoln Dinner participation.”

Former EPC GOP chair Joshua Hosler laid out the dire state of the county party finances in a Facebook post last week:

Tickets to the event range from $45 for “Young Professionals,” to upwards of $250 with various preferred seating and VIP packages.

Keynote speaker Kirk’s national profile is presumably a draw for attendees, but his speaking fee is also a substantial portion of the event’s expenses.

Asked via email what portion of the “$50,000 in obligations” was dedicated to Charlie Kirk’s speaking fee, Hosler replied,

“I heard $18,000. The venue only holds 400. The math didn’t add up.”

That figure is at the high end of the $10,000 – $20,000 range listed on speakers bureau websites advertising Kirk’s services.

Turning Point USA is a conservative student organization dedicated to “combating liberalism on college and university campuses.” It’s perhaps best-known for its controversial “Professor Watch List,” designed to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students.”

Back in February, former Turning Point Communications Director Candace Owens keynoted the Boulder County GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner. Her appearance was not without controversy, as news of her statement that the problem with Hitler was his ambition beyond Germany broke the day before the dinner. Owens resigned from the group in May.

County parties typically try to keep costs low, with speakers often discounting their fees or charging just for travel expenses. Donations to county parties count towards the state party’s total dollars raised for each election cycle.

In a Facebook comment, Colorado Republican Party Vice Chair Kristi Burton Brown wrote that the state GOP is assisting the El Paso County Republican Party’s sole remaining officer, Secretary Vickie Tonkins, with the event. Brown noted that El Paso is a “key county and we [the Colorado GOP] want you to succeed.”

El Paso County Republican Party secretary Vickie Tonkins did not answer a call requesting comment and her voice mailbox is full. A Facebook message also went unreturned.

Cory Gardner Hosting $500 Breakfast at Glenmoor Country Club this Friday

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Glenmoor Country Club

UPDATE: Douglas County Commissioner Abe Laydon, who is a member of the fundraiser’s host committee, responded to a request for comment. Commissioner Laydon also said he’s excited about the commitment Gardner has made to pursue infrastructure projects that are important to the residents of Douglas County. He continued,

“I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more of him in terms of engaging all of his constituents in Colorado. My understanding of Cory is that he would like to engage with the public in Colorado and make sure that those voices are heard.”

Asked if the senator’s lack of public appearances is a concern to him as a public official, Laydon replied,

I think that has been a concern shared by many and that I think Senator Gardner also shares. What’s really exciting for me is to see him really hear those voices and those concerns and to make a concerted effort to show up and to listen and I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more of him.”

Sen. Cory Gardner returns to Colorado on Friday, but he’s bringing Washington with him. He’s hosting a fundraiser breakfast with Sen. John Thune (R-SD) at a country club in Cherry Hills Village.

Gardner, who is under fire from his constituents for not holding a public event since September of 2017, is spending his time on high-dollar donor events: he’s held at least four since the beginning of the year, all in Washington, DC.

A pair of powerhouse law firms hosted luncheons for him in January. In February all the members of the Senate GOP leadership, including Majority Whip Thune, joined Gardner for his “Campaign Kick-off.”

Just yesterday, the Gardner campaign invited DC’s high rollers to an undisclosed location to have margaritas…for $500.


Cory Gardner Headlined the NY Republicans’ “Empire Club” Fundraiser

Senator Cory Gardner has had a busy fundraising schedule so far this year. In addition to a pair of high-dollar events last month, his official campaign kick-off luncheon takes place Wednesday at an undisclosed Washington DC location, where he’ll be joined by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the entire Senate leadership team. But Gardner isn’t just holding his own hand out, he’s helping other Republicans in need as well.


Just one week ago he was in New York City to help the New York GOP squeeze a few dollars out of their high-rolling members. Speaking at an exclusive reception for the party’s Empire Club, Gardner entertained the crowd with tales of NRSC victories from the 2018 election.


The Oil and Gas Industry is Trying to Buy the Election…Like, Literally All of It

Smoke ’em if you got ’em!

As Westword reports today, the oil and gas industry is spending a positively obscene amount of money on the 2018 election in Colorado:

More than one in five dollars donated to all campaigns and political groups in state races in 2018 has been a direct contribution from a fossil fuel corporation. [Pols emphasis] And that sum does not include the industry’s additional undisclosed corporate spending.

The vast majority of the disclosed expenditures — almost $40 million — flowed into a PAC called Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy, and Energy Independence, better known as Protect Colorado. [Pols emphasis] The group is a state issue committee that is registered to oppose “safer setbacks” measure Proposition 112. Protect Colorado has also provided most of the money for the Committee for Colorado’s Shared Heritage, the group advocating for Amendment 74.

While ads have derided Amendment 74 opponents for receiving money from outside Colorado, Protect Colorado has received a combined $13.7 million from Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy. Colorado’s PDC Energy has kicked in more than $5 million and Extraction Oil & Gas has given $3.3 million. More than half of Protect Colorado’s money comes from these four corporations.

Noble has also taken the unprecedented step of directly funding TV spots that explicitly urge voters to reject Proposition 112, but which the company claims are not political ads — and therefore not subject to state campaign finance disclosure requirements. The ads have aired on at least twelve Colorado TV stations in October, FCC records show.

It’s important to note here that the $40 million figure is a conservative estimate of the industry’s total election spending in 2018. The $40 million figure includes contributions of $750,000 to “Better Colorado Now,” the Super PAC created to back Republican Walker Stapleton for Governor, as well as $1.5 million in contributions to the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA). This figure does not include individual contributions from fossil fuel industry donors to Republican candidates for office in Colorado; needless to say, you can probably tack on a few more dollars there.

The majority of the oil and gas money seems to be funneled toward opposing Proposition 112 and supporting Amendment 74 (Westword also has a meticulously-detailed story on Amendment 74 and its connections to the O&G industry). Election spending from the oil and gas industry should be a much bigger story than it is, though we suspect it will get lots more attention in the weeks and months to come.

The ridiculous amount of money being spent by the O&G industry also says a lot about the short-sightedness of Amendment 75, the flawed ballot measure that supporters claim is about leveling the playing field for candidates competing against millionaire opponents. As Mitt Romney famously said about the Citizens United campaign finance ruling, “Corporations are people, too.” If that’s true, perhaps we should start treating them as such.

More Crowmentum

Democrat Jason Crow and family

The campaign for Democrat Jason Crow announced new fundraising numbers that are positively ridiculous. According to a press release:

Former Army Ranger and first-time candidate Jason Crow today announced that he will report a $2.23 million fundraising total for the third quarter this year, smashing any previous quarterly fundraising record in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District – all while refusing any donations from corporate PACs.

Crow has raised nearly $4.5 million so far this cycle, and will report nearly $1.2 million in cash on hand at the end of September. Ninety-two percent of those funds came from individual donors.

Crow raised $2.23 million IN THE THIRD QUARTER of 2018.

To put that into context, Republican Rep. Mike Coffman raised $2.3 million in the 18 months between January 2017 and July 2018.

This is another reason why it looks more and more like Coffman may have reached the end of the political line.

Tipton And Other Republicans Return to Pueblo Racist’s Annual Fundraiser

(Gross — promoted by Colorado Pols)

Every year, Republican lawmakers gather at Tom Ready’s Steak Fry fundraiser. Ready is an unapologetic racist and anti-government conspiracy theorist whose annual backyard BBQ nevertheless continues to draw GOP candidates and elected officials of all levels, including Congressman Scott Tipton.

 Ready’s history of overt racism, homophobia and Islamophobia has been well-documented by the Colorado Times Recorder in the past. The post on the left is from a couple years ago.

Tom Ready racist NFL FB postHe continues to do so today, with posts like this one about NFL players. 


Confirmed attendees at this year’s event include Congressman Scott Tipton, State Sens. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) and Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs), HD46 Jonathan Ambler, HD47 candidate Don Bendell, HD62 candidate Scott Honeycutt, Pueblo County Commissioner District 3 candidate Zach Swearingen, University of Colorado Regent Glen Gallegos, and Marla Spinuzzi Reichert, chair of the Pueblo County Republicans.



Ruh-Roh: Walker Stapleton Fundraising Stalling Out

Perpetually perplexed

Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton has been running into one problem after another since winning the June 26 Republican Primary, and now he’s going to have to figure out a way to explain some pretty terrible fundraising numbers.

Democrat Jared Polis reported raising $1,632,021 in the last month, leaving his campaign with $1,268,081 cash on hand. Most of this money comes from Polis’ own bank account — he has now contributed about $12.9 million of his own money to his campaign. Polis appears to be plenty comfortable spending millions more in order to win in November, which puts a lot of pressure on Stapleton to keep up (before you shed a tear for Stapleton, remember that he is independently wealthy in his own right and has a massive fundraising base thanks to his Bush family ties).

Stapleton’s fundraising has been pretty weak since capturing the GOP nomination in June. Stapleton raised just $255,042 in the last month — $80,000 of which came from the Colorado Republican Party — leaving his campaign with $301,811 cash on hand. These numbers are similar to those posted by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez in July 2014* ($261,006 raised, $235,413 cash on hand) when Beauprez was challenging incumbent Governor John Hickenlooper. It’s a lot easier to raise money for an open seat, but Stapleton’s numbers haven’t borne that out. *Note: We’re not comparing fundraising numbers from 2010 and earlier, when Colorado still held its Primary Election in August.

Stapleton is getting some financial support from the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA), which has contributed more than $1 million to a SuperPAC created to boost his chances in November. Stapleton will also benefit from spending by Better Colorado Now, a SuperPAC essentially created in order to support Stapleton, though the committee only had about $18,000 in the bank according to its latest report.

Stapleton was always the General Election opponent that Democrats were hoping to face, and his bumbling performance in the last few months has only strengthened that belief. In the weeks following the June 26 Primary, Stapleton botched an announcement about his choice for Lieutenant Governor; was forced to correct embarrassing errors on his personal financial disclosures; invited President Trump to campaign with him in Colorado; faced serious concerns about his performance as State Treasurer (concerns that were exacerbated by his own boneheaded responses); and has continued to deal with stories about ancestral ties to the Ku Klux Klan. Oh, and don’t forget weird stories about accusing former nannies of stealing underwear and sippy cups.

If not for the possibility of more outside spending help, Stapleton would be in big trouble heading into the final months of the campaign. Stapleton’s weak fundraising means that he’ll be forced to rely on outside help — particularly from the RGA — if he hopes to win in November. If polling numbers don’t improve for Stapleton in the next 6 weeks, the RGA will likely start to pull back in Colorado and look to maximize its investments in other states.

If and when that happens, Stapleton will be a dead man walking.

Mike Coffman Embraces Donald Trump

Head by Coffman, hair by Trump

President Trump’s re-election campaign is diverting serious cash to 100 Republican candidates for U.S. Senate and House in an effort to stave off a growing Blue Wave.

As McClatchy DC reports, Trump’s campaign cash is even going to Republican candidates who have been critical of the President in words (although loyal in their voting records) — candidates like Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora):

The Trump campaign announced last week that it would donate the maximum amount allowed by law — $2,000 per candidate — to 100 Republicans running for Congress in November, perhaps a sign that the GOP is worried it will lose its majorities in Congress. Democrats need to pick up a net of 23 seats in the House and two in the Senate to gain control of the chambers.

The Trump campaign did not disclose which candidates would receive contributions and did not respond to subsequent questions about how the candidates were selected, but McClatchy obtained a detailed list…

…None of the half-dozen campaigns contacted by McClatchy said they were aware of the donations. Some declined to comment while others, including Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who supported the immigration proposal opposed by Trump, did not immediately respond to a message.

Trump Tracker, via

Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) is the only other member of Colorado’s delegation receiving financial support from the Trump campaign. Tipton has generally shied away from criticizing Trump, so his inclusion on this list is less of a surprise at first glance. But when you look closer at the data, it shows that Rep. Coffman has turned out to be among the most Trumpian members of Congress in the last 18 months. As’s Trump Tracker shows, Coffman has voted with Trump’s position 95.6% of the time, placing him fifth among all House members in Congress.

While he has been busy supporting Trump at every turn in Congress, Coffman has tried to maintain some distance with the President in the context of his re-election campaign. Back in 2016, Coffman aired the first “stand up to Trump” television ad from an incumbent Republican Congressman, but after Trump won the Presidency, he quickly came around with a MAGA hat of his own.

Coffman has always rode the fence on virtually every issue, and he’s taking the same approach with his on-again, off-again dalliance with Trump. It might just come back to bite him in the butt in November.

Jason Crow Reports Massive Fundraising Haul

Democrat Jason Crow and family

Democrat Jason Crow continues to put up impressive fundraising numbers in his bid to unseat Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) in CD-6.

According to a press release from Crow’s campaign, the candidate pulled down more than $1 million in donations in just the second quarter of 2018:

Today, Jason Crow, a decorated former Army Ranger, father, veterans’ advocate and candidate for Congress in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, announced that he raised $1,003,588 in the second quarter – including over $630,000 in this reporting period. The total represents the most contributions any candidate in CD-6 has ever received in the second quarter. [Pols emphasis] Crow, who has pledged to not accept a dime of corporate PAC money, raised 95% of those funds from individual donors.

Crow will end the quarter with $1,295,458 cash on hand. He has raised $2,263,140 to date from nearly 7200 unique individual donors.

“We’re going to win this race because the grassroots energy in this district is ready for a new generation of servant leadership,” said Crow. “Coloradans are ready to tell Mike Coffman that you don’t need corporate Super PAC dollars to win a campaign. You just need the better ideas and the willingness to put people first.”

To put these numbers in perspective, consider that Coffman’s campaign has raised just more than $2 million for the entire 2018 cycle.

Jason Crow Has All the Momentum in CD-6

Democrat Jason Crow and family

We’re less than seven months away from the November election, and if the rest of this year unfolds like the first 100 days have gone for Jason Crow, 2018 is going to be a banner year for the Aurora Democrat.

Crow is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to take on incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Coffman in CD-6, and today his campaign announced a very strong fundraising quarter for the first three months of 2018. From a press release:

Today, Jason Crow, a decorated former Army Ranger, father, veterans’ advocate and candidate for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District announced raising $461,832 for the first quarter of 2018, bringing his total raised to $1,259,532 since launching his campaign one year ago this week. Crow, who has pledged to not take a dollar from corporate PACs, brought in 91% of his Q1 money from individuals with an average donation of $121. He has gained more than 4,800 individual donors for the cycle and he currently has $883,746 cash on hand.

We don’t know what Coffman’s Q1 fundraising numbers look like (figures won’t be available via the FEC until next week), but Crow’s $461,832 far exceeds the $276,712 raised by the Democrat in Q4 2017; Crow outraised Coffman by $35k in the last three months of 2017 as Coffman finished the year with his worst fundraising performance since 2011 (Coffman’s weak fundraising also followed a general downward trend for incumbent Republican Congressmen throughout the country).

Polling numbers released in February showed Crow with a 44-39 lead over Coffman — the first public poll showing Coffman trailing anyone since he was first elected in CD-6 in 2008. Coffman has been able to weather difficult opponents and political environments in the past, but 2018 is shaping up to be a monster of a blue wave. As Reuters reported on Monday:

Older, white, educated voters helped Donald Trump win the White House in 2016. Now, they are trending toward Democrats in such numbers that their ballots could tip the scales in tight congressional races from New Jersey to California, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll and a data analysis of competitive districts shows.

Nationwide, whites over the age of 60 with college degrees now favor Democrats over Republicans for Congress by a 2-point margin, according to Reuters/Ipsos opinion polling during the first three months of the year. During the same period in 2016, that same group favored Republicans for Congress by 10 percentage points…

“The real core for the Republicans is white, older white, and if they’re losing ground there, they’re going to have a tsunami,” [Pols emphasis] said Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist who closely tracks political races. “If that continues to November, they’re toast.”

Can Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) ride out a blue wave in 2018?

While the margins have varied over the last few months, Democrats continue to hold a strong lead over Republicans in the “generic congressional ballot” that measures how voters generally feel about candidates from the two major parties. The Washington Post reported on Monday that Republicans are growing so concerned about losing their majority in the House that they may shift most of their resources toward trying to preserve their slim majority in the Senate.

Coffman’s biggest political victory in recent months occurred last weekend, when he narrowly avoided a Primary challenge from little-known Republican Roger Edwards. Coffman had to scrap and claw to keep Edwards below the 30% threshold required for ballot access, and there is reason for Coffman to worry about being able to hold onto his Republican base in November. Meanwhile, Crow is consolidating support among Democrats; Levi Tillemann, the only other Democrat still in the race, is fading fast and seems unlikely to pose much of a threat to Crow’s nomination.

Coffman has consistently demonstrated a remarkable ability to overcome difficult opponents and tough political environments over the years, and we’ve learned from experience not to count him out.

But sooner or later, the odds catch up to everyone — even Mike Coffman.

Yup, It Definitely Sucks to be Cory Gardner

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) turns that smile upside down.

Burgess Everett of Politico picks up on a theme we’ve visited time and again here on Colorado Pols: It’s no fun to be Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). Take a look at what Everett has to say in a story subtitled “The lonely existence of Cory Gardner”:

Senate Republican campaigns chief Cory Gardner might’ve had the easiest job in Washington — if only Hillary Clinton had won.

Instead, the centrist-minded Coloradan has found himself in one of the toughest predicaments in town: leading the Republican battalion in what’s instead shaping up as an anti-Trump Democratic wave election, while at the same time trying to cut legislative deals with some of the senators he’s campaigning hardest to defeat. Gardner is going to need bipartisan accomplishments to survive his own swing-state reelection race in 2020.

It’s not exactly what the sunny, glad-handing pol was signing up for when he put in for the job just before the 2016 election.

“He’s a brave man,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a former National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman and now the party whip. “I admire him for being willing to take on the challenge.”

Talk about damning with faint praise — calling Gardner “brave” in a political sense is code for saying that he’s absolutely screwed.

Gardner campaigned hard to be the head guy at the NRSC at a time when it looked like Democrat Hillary Clinton was going to be President and Republicans would get to run against her for the next several years. The NRSC job was tantalizing enough that Gardner and North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis once proposed serving as co-chairs; Gardner ended up getting the job all to himself, and there probably isn’t a day that goes by where Tillis doesn’t say a silent prayer of thanks for how this all worked out.

Sen. Cory Gardner (left) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Associated Press)

Things have not gone well for Gardner since he first got the NRSC job in November 2016. We don’t really need to elaborate on why it has been tough to be a Republican since Donald Trump moved into the White House, but it’s important to note that longtime GOP supporters and donors have been just as upset with Congressional Republicans who only managed to pass a single piece of significant legislation in 2017 (a tax plan that Gardner doesn’t discuss). Gardner’s fundraising struggles have been well-documented, and he’s still trying to rebuild burned bridges after NRSC staffers were caught stealing donor lists from their counterparts at the National Republican Congressional Committee. Money has been so tight at the NRSC that Gardner has continually danced around the issue of giving back $100,000 from disgraced Nevada casino mogul Steve Wynn.

It’s telling that the normally-verbose Gardner is not exactly enthusiastic about Republican chances in 2018, as Politico explains:

Though Gardner never admits that his party’s prospects have declined due to Trump’s unpopularity and the failure to score top-tier candidates in states like Montana, he is realistic about the challenges he faces. When pressed on how many seats Republicans might be able to pick up, he does a brief impression of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with his Kentucky drawl, saying that predicting Senate races is a fool’s errand.

“I would not [put a number]. I am optimistic about every single one of these races. Part of that is just because of who I am,” Gardner said, noting how rarely the GOP has built majorities of more than 55 seats in the past century. “We have to contend with history.” [Pols emphasis]

History will show that 2017 was a positively terrible year for Gardner, and 2018 isn’t looking much better. Gardner’s 25% approval rating demonstrates an erosion of support on all sides; the last public poll for Gardner showed that only 38% of Colorado Republicans approved of his performance.

Gardner isn’t up for re-election until 2020, but the 2018 election will go a long way toward determining what’s left of his political future.

Coffman’s Outlook Clouds As GOP Fundraising Woes Deepen

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

At the end of January, Democratic CD-6 candidate Jason Crow made waves in the perennial pitched battle against incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Coffman after outraising Coffman in the last quarter of 2017–a solid performance in marked contrast to Coffman posting his worst quarterly number since 2011.

And as Vox reported last week, the headwinds Coffman is experiencing are not unique to his race:

Newly released data from the Federal Election Commission shows that at least 55 Democratic candidates in competitive House races are raising more than the Republican incumbents they’re challenging.

More than 80 Democrats running in Republican-held districts had at least $250,000 in cash on hand at the end of 2017, according to the FEC data. Even incumbents were struggling to raise as much as their challengers; more than a dozen Republican incumbents had less cash on hand than their Democratic opponents…

Obviously, 2017 was a very good year to be dramatizing donors’ wallets open for political donations on both sides. Both the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) had record fundraising years, but Vox reports that millions of dollars contributing to the GOP’s total on hand can’t be spent on elections. In reality, the Democratic advantage is considerable. As the 2018 season heats up, the NRCC’s support for Coffman will be crucial to his hopes of holding his seat–yet their pie may be smaller than ever, and divided between more seats in play than Republicans have had to contend with since George W. Bush was President.

And that’s just the beginning of the story. Republican fundraising efforts have been upset going into this year by multiple factors including the collapse of the Breitbart-White House alliance, the Steve Wynn sexual harassment scandal that forced his resignation as finance director of the Republican National Committee, and the general perception of an upcoming Republican bloodbath in November.

While no one should be writing Coffman’s political obituary yet, it’s safe to say that none of is working in his favor.

Cory Gardner Will Do a Thing at Some Point

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) needs every last coin he can find for the NRSC.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) made a regrettable appearance in a Huffington Post story on Tuesday about Republican confusion over what to do with money raised by former Republican National Committee (RNC) finance chair Steve Wynn, the casino magnate who has been accused of sexual assault and harassment by several women.

Nevada’s Gaming Control Board has reportedly launched an investigation into the assault/harassment claims against Wynn, who stepped down from his position with the RNC last weekend in the wake of a story from the Wall Street Journal documenting the accusations. Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the RNC, said on Tuesday that the Republican Party would only return donations from Wynn “if he is found of any wrongdoing,” which is a consideration that Republicans didn’t seem to find important last year when they were crowing about political donations to Democrats from disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

But as bad as McDaniel’s comments on Wynn might appear, they are actually more well-thought out than the response given by Gardner:

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who runs the group in charge of electing Republicans to the Senate, told MSNBC on Tuesday that he doesn’t know what his National Republican Senatorial Committee will do with the $100,000 Wynn has given them.

“We’ll make sure we do the appropriate action,” Gardner said.

When pressed, he said he still wasn’t sure what that was. [Pols emphasis]

It might seem rather trivial to equivocate on returning $100,000 from Wynn, but Gardner is having a heck of a lot of trouble wrangling checks for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).

They say you can’t put a price on integrity. But if you could, Gardner might suggest starting the bidding at six figures.

Tancredo Wants No Part of the Blue Wave

Tom Tancredo sees the same numbers as everyone else.

Former Congressman Tom Tancredo was the frontrunner for the Republican gubernatorial nomination until this afternoon, when he abruptly dropped out of the race altogether.

If you’re wondering what in the hell just happened, the answer is deceptively simple: Tancredo decided the 2018 race for Governor was not winnable for Republicans. Here’s the money quote via Ernest Luning of the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

“It appeared to me the goal — winning the general, that was the main goal — and it does not appear to me to be feasible.”

The 2018 election is shaping up to be a catastrophic event for Republicans, and everyone sees it coming. In the House of Representatives alone, there are 35 Republicans who are just walking away from office and not even trying to run for re-election — including some of the most powerful and influential committee chairs on Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been open about his concerns that Republicans might lose both the House and the Senate in November.

Here’s another key quote from Luning’s story:

“I can’t do this and risk taking resources away from other Republican races.”

Remember that Tancredo joined the race for Governor well before the November 2017 election that officially started to panic Republicans around the country. Tancredo ran for Governor in both 2010 and 2014; he knows what it is like to run a statewide race more than just about anybody in Colorado, and he is absolutely not afraid of challenging the GOP establishment. But Tancredo is also at the end of his political career, and he doesn’t want to be blamed for a 2018 loss that may be unavoidable for Republicans.

BREAKING: Tom Tancredo Out of Governor’s Race

Just kidding!

UPDATE: Ernest Luning has more for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo is ending his bid for the Republican nomination for Colorado governor on Tuesday because he hasn’t raised the money he believes would be necessary to win an expensive election against a wealthy Democrat willing to spend millions on his campaign, Colorado Politics has learned.

“I do not want to win a primary and lose a general, and I fear that was where we were going,” he told Colorado Politics in an interview. [Pols emphasis]

“Even though I’m the front-runner — you make it through a primary, and then all hell breaks loose, you have millions upon millions of dollars spent attacking you, and you can’t respond, you don’t have the resources to respond. It appeared to me the goal — winning the general, that was the main goal — and it does not appear to me to be feasible.”

One of nine announced GOP candidates for governor, Tancredo has led the pack by wide margins in every publicly available poll. He’s run for governor twice before — in 2010 as a third-party candidate, when he lost to Democrat John Hickenlooper but received more than three times as many votes as the Republican nominee, and in 2014, when he came in second in a four-way Republican primary.

Tancredo’s rationale for ending his campaign is…strange. The former Congressman got into the Governor’s race last fall because he thought he was the only Republican candidate who could win in a General Election. Tancredo had been under a lot of pressure from fellow Republicans to exit the race, but that’s nothing new for him, either.

Tancredo was not doing particularly well on the fundraising front, but as the GOP frontrunner heading into the state assembly, he didn’t really need a lot of money to make sure his name got onto the ballot.


We’ll certainly have more to say about this developing story:

Mike Coffman’s Quarterly Fundraising is Lowest Since 2011

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Democrat Jason Crow

Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) will report his weakest fundraising quarter in six years when federal campaign finance numbers for Q4 (2017) become public next week. As Ernest Luning writes for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

Democrat Jason Crow outraised Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in the most recent fundraising quarter, but the five-term incumbent outspent his challenger in Colorado’s battleground 6th Congressional District and had more cash on hand at the end of the year, according to reports the campaigns plan to file with the Federal Election Commission.

In the quarter ending Dec. 31, Crow raised $276,712 to Coffman’s roughly $241,000, their campaigns told Colorado Politics.

Crow, one of four Democrats running to unseat Coffman, will report spending approximately $80,000 during the three-month period, while Coffman will report spending just under $125,000 — leaving $590,346 in Crow’s campaign account and about $840,000 in Coffman’s.

For the year, Coffman has raised $1.22 million, compared with just under $800,000 pulled in by Crow, who declared his candidacy in April

Coffman’s $241,000 in Q4 (2017) represents — by far — his worst quarterly fundraising number since 2011, and the incumbent Republican is on a slower fundraising pace at this point in the campaign than he was at a similar stage in 2016. Both Coffman and his top Democratic challenger, Jason Crow, are in the same financial ballpark thus far, though Coffman has considerably less cash-on-hand compared to the same point two years ago:

So, what does this all mean for 2018? Quite frankly, we’re not sure what to make of these particular tea leaves. This isn’t the first time that Coffman has been outraised by a Democratic opponent, and the Aurora Republican has never had much trouble turning on the cash spigot when he needs it most. Coffman’s fairly easy re-election victories in both 2014 and 2016 — and his 30 years as an elected official in Colorado — have shown that you can never truly count him out, no matter what the political climate looks like.

On the other hand…even Mike Coffman can’t beat the odds forever. Perhaps the most interesting lesson in these Q4 fundraising numbers is that Democratic donors are not losing their enthusiasm for winning in CD-6 after disappointing finishes in each of the last two cycles.

As the 2018 election kicks into high gear, Crow is right where he needs to be — and that’s about all Democratic supporters could hope to see.

Cynthia Coffman Will Go Petition Route, Ride Unicorn

This is…strange, but par for the course for Cynthia “Wait, What?” Coffman:

This is the part where we tell you that Coffman has just $85,000 in her campaign bank account as of the beginning of January. Candidates for Governor need at least 10,500 valid signatures from registered voters of their own party in order to make the primary ballot in June (1,500 from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts). It is nearly impossible to gather these signatures through volunteers alone — assuming Coffman even has volunteers — so she’ll need a lot of money for signature gathering firms that normally charge anywhere from $2-4 per signature. These firms can jack prices up to as much as $8 per signature depending on demand — and there is a LOT of demand in 2018.

Now, In order to account for potential duplicate signatures, the general rule for campaigns is to submit double the required number of signatures for ballot access. For candidates seeking the top statewide offices in Colorado, that means they need to collect about 21,000  total signatures by March 20.

At an average cost of $2-4 per signature, it would cost a statewide candidate anywhere from $42,000 to $84,000 at minimum in order to qualify for the primary ballot. In 2014, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez paid about $269,000 to two different signature-gathering outfits (Argos Colorado and Signature Gathering CO of Oregon); it’s impossible to tell from campaign finance reports just what percentage of that $269k paid for signature collection alone, but this is still a pretty good estimate of what it will cost candidates in 2018.

Again, this is the part where we tell you that Coffman has just $85,000 in her campaign bank account as of the beginning of January.

We have a hard time envisioning a scenario whereby this works out well for Coffman, though we’ve been saying that for awhile now.

Fundraising Numbers for Attorney General Race

There are six candidates running for Attorney General in 2018 — and five of them are Democrats. Any Democrat not named Phil Weiser can really only hope to make the ballot via the caucus/assembly process because they won’t likely have enough money for petition gathering.

Democrat Phil Weiser is really, really, really good at raising money. Fellow Democrat Joe Salazar is really, really, really bad at raising money. Republican George Brauchler raised about as much money over the Holidays as he had raised in the previous three months as a candidate for Governor.

Fundraising Numbers for State Treasurer Race

If you combined the cash-on-hand numbers for the bottom seven candidates seeking the office of State Treasurer, you still wouldn’t have $85,000.

There are a gazillion candidates running for State Treasurer, but based on campaign finance reports, there’s really only three who seem to have a chance at being competitive: Republicans Brian Watson and Polly Lawrence, and Democrat Dave Young. But because both Watson and Lawrence are petitioning on to the ballot, there will be room in the GOP Primary for at least 2 more Republicans to gain ballot access via the caucus/assembly process.

A quick note on Democrat Steve Lebsock: His campaign for State Treasurer didn’t raise a dime after October 17 (sexual harassment allegations against Lebsock first surfaced in early November). Lebsock’s entire contribution report for Q4 consists of four entries.

Oh, and Justin Everett barely outraised Lebsock.

Fundraising Numbers for 2018 Governor’s Race

UPDATE (3:10pm): Walker Stapleton finally figured out how to use the Internet. We’ve updated the numbers below…


The fundraising numbers for the Q4 (2017) reporting period are in – most of them, anyway – giving us our first glimpse at the level of support for the various campaigns seeking one of Colorado’s top jobs in November.

Let’s break down the numbers for Colorado’s top candidates for Governor…

We haven’t broken out self-funding numbers like this in the past, but with so many candidates drawing from their own checking accounts and not even trying to fundraise in a traditional manner (see: Victor Mitchell, Jared Polis, etc.), it is more important than ever to distinguish self-funding numbers that can be included in the total “contributions” for the quarter.

We also haven’t broken out the numbers from various Independent Expenditure Committees (IECs) that have been formed to (essentially) support individual candidates. Walker Stapleton can expect more than $750k in support from “Better Colorado Now.” There is also more money in an IEC for Cynthia Coffman than the she has raised herself.


Democratic candidates for Governor are outraising Republicans by significant margins; Michael Johnston, Donna Lynne, and Cary Kennedy all raised more than $250k in Q4. Democratic candidates are also spending considerably more money than Republicans, which indicates more comprehensive and well-organized campaign operations.

On the Republican side, former Congressman Tom Tancredo isn’t bringing in a lot of cash – but he’s also the only candidate in the field whose public profile is robust enough to run a viable campaign without raising a lot of money. The most alarming numbers belong to Coffman, who only cracked the $100k mark because of a $15k transfer from her Attorney General campaign coffers. Both Tancredo and Coffman were expected to seek ballot access via the caucus/assembly route, and their relative inability to raise money essentially precludes them from trying to petition onto the ballot.

Second-tier gubernatorial candidates such as Mitt Romney’s Nephew (R) and Noel Ginsburg (D) are only going to be competitive to the extent that they are willing to continue writing personal checks to their campaigns, although Mitt’s Nephew will benefit from a hefty IEC (“Build Colorado’s Future”) while he spends the bulk of his campaign warchest petitioning onto the ballot.

Where’s Walker’s Finance Report?

UPDATE (1:14pm): Stapleton’s campaign has been fined by the Secretary of State’s office for failing to meet reporting deadline requirements (scroll to bottom).


We’ll have a full roundup of the Q4 (2017) fundraising numbers a bit later; perhaps by then Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton will have finally filed his report that was due before Midnight.

Last week Stapleton’s campaign leaked out news that it had raised a record amount of money in Q4, but we’re still waiting for confirmation of those figures because…well, according to one of Stapleton’s top advisors, it’s the Secretary of State’s fault:

It’s worth noting here that no other major campaign in Colorado failed to report its Q4 fundraising report before last night’s deadline.