While Democratic candidates have far outpaced Republican opponents on campaign spending for the top ballot races, outside groups are narrowing that gap, new campaign finance reports show.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder has spent more than $21 million, much of it his own, while his Republican opponent, state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, has seen $5.9 million spent by outside groups to attack Polis or support Stapleton, new finance reports show.
For other top state candidates, outside spending has nearly evened the playing field for Republicans in a year when Democrats’ fundraising and spending are strong.
In the attorney general’s race, for example, Democrat Phil Weiser has raised $2.4 million, compared with Republican George Brauchler’s $821,246. But the Republican Attorneys General Association has spent $3.5 million to support Brauchler. Its Democratic counterparts have spent just $146,821 to back Weiser.
The same is true in five key state Senate races. Democrats have raised and spent $1.124 million compared with the Republicans’ $197,118.
But outside groups add more than $5 million to the Republicans’ spending; Democrats add about $3.7 million.
With three weeks to go before Election Day and ballots already in the mail, spending by candidates and the groups that back them is shifting to get-out-the-vote efforts.
More than $33 million has been spent this election cycle by 46 independent expenditure committees, say the newest campaign finance reports submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office. These committees hope to win votes for governor, treasurer, secretary of state and attorney general, as well as the 17 state Senate and 65 House seats in play.
Workers are being hired to distribute door hangers and encourage their party’s voters to send in the ballots, which should arrive by mail any day.
Among groups headed for Colorado streets and neighborhoods is Denver-based Work for Progress, hired by Democrat-supporting outside groups such as the Conservation Colorado Victory Fund and Colorado Fair Share Action.
Work for Progress took in more than $918,000 from Sept. 27 to Oct. 10 for door-to-door voter contacts and literature drops alone. The group will canvass on behalf of Polis and Democrats running for the state House and Senate.
Working to get out the vote for Republican Senate candidates is Blitz Canvassing, funded chiefly by outside committees including the Business Opportunity Fund and Colorado Advocates for Rural Electrification. Blitz received $240,000 between Sept. 27 and Oct. 10 for those activities.
But that doesn’t mean mailers, TV, radio and internet ads are over. The groups and campaigns still are spending millions on ads.
One of the newest ads is from Colorado Citizens for Truth, which spent $699,000 on a controversial ad against Polis.
The ad references a 1999 incident involving Polis and a departing woman employee at his business who he thought was trying to steal documents. Polis called police, who investigated; they cited the woman for theft of trade secrets, to which she later pleaded guilty. Polis was not arrested or charged. (More details here.)
The Associated Press, in a “truth test,” calls the ad misleading.
The governor’s race, naturally, is getting the biggest dollars from independent expenditure groups (IECs), with a dozen committees working exclusively to support Polis or Stapleton.
But secretary of state candidate Jena Griswold also got a big IEC boost when Blueflower Action Fund, which backs Democratic women, spent $200,000 for an ad buy Oct. 12.
Coloradans for Fairness, which backs Democratic Senate candidates, has raised the most of any outside candidates’ group: more than $5.4 million. Good Jobs Colorado, which backs Polis, has raised more than $5.1 million.
On the GOP side, Colorado Freedom, funded by the Republican Attorneys General Association, raised the most at $3.5 million, followed by Better Colorado Now, with $3.25 million. The latter backs Stapleton.
As for candidate campaign spending, more than $5.5 million was spent between Sept. 27 and Oct. 10 — including $2.4 million by Polis for Colorado and $729,000 by Stapleton for Colorado.
Polis has spent $21.7 million of his own money on his campaign, including $2 million he kicked in Oct. 1. Stapleton’s total remains at $1.05 million with no new contributions since Sept. 17.
Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity’s IEC, in its finance report, cited two ad buys, at $107,000 and $108,000, but failed to disclose which candidates the ads support or oppose. The IEC reported that spending as electioneering communications; the law requires the identification of targeted candidates.
AFP announced last month it would set up an outside spending group to support Stapleton and a couple of Republican legislative candidates. AFP-Colorado Director Jesse Mallory did not return a call for comment.
Here’s a roundup of campaign spending through Oct. 10 for other statewide races:
• Attorney General
George Brauchler (R): $821,246.67
Phil Weiser (D): $2,407,211.95
• Secretary of State
Wayne Williams: (R) $139,251.78
Jena Griswold: (D) $777,586.70
Brian Watson (R): $1,116,525.14
Dave Young (D): $410,445.51