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Politics and Government

New political groups emerge in Colorado’s election 2018 TV advertising battle, explained in graphics

Walker Stapleton and Jena Griswold, for instance, are each getting a boost from new political TV ads

From left: Walker Stapleton, Cinnamon Watson, Craigh Hughes and Jared Polis at the Pro15 candidate debates in Weld County on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. (Jacob Paul, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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Just when it seems like you can’t take seeing any more political commercials, new super PACs are emerging to influence voters as ballots arrive in mailboxes.

General election TV ad spending is nearing $50 million, according to an analysis by The Colorado Sun, with total political ad spending for the cycle at $64.4 million.

A new Republican group, the American Comeback Committee, is paying for commercials in the governor’s race to help Walker Stapleton, who continues to trail Democrat Jared Polis in the polls.

Independent spending disclosures show some of the group’s money comes from the Republican Governors Association. American Comeback reports spending about $500,000 on TV ads attacking Polis on government-run health care, but only about $70,000 of that shows up in FCC contracts thus far.

MORE: A guide to the outside money — and where it’s coming from — in the Colorado governor’s race

The other new political groups on the air now are Great Judges for a Great Colorado targeting some judges up for retention and iVote, a national group that advocates for voting rights helping Democrat Jena Griswold, who is running for secretary of state.

The governor’s race totals at least $13.3 million in general election TV-ad spending, with Polis leading the way among all advertisers at nearly $7.6 million. When you add the primary, Polis has spent $12.3 million on TV ads.

Stapleton’s campaign, meanwhile, has booked only about $900,000 worth of ads in the general election.

The numbers are based on a review of political advertising contracts filed with the Federal Communications Commission. It’s likely incomplete because TV stations aren’t required to file contracts by independent spenders such as super PACs when they’re involved in state-level races.

At least seven Republican outside groups have aired ads attacking Polis, supporting Stapleton or both during the general election. Here’s a look at some of the latest outside groups involved in the governor’s contest:

  • Colorado Citizens for Truth came out with an ad that at least two stations refused to run because it failed fact checks.
  • Better Jobs Coalition, a super PAC affiliated with Republican Rick Enstrom, is spending about $450,000 on cable ads. Some oppose Polis, according to independent spending disclosures, and Comcast disclosures say the ads pertain to the governor’s contest. Others oppose Democratic state Rep. Jessie Danielson in Senate District 20 in Jefferson County, and some focus on a CU regent contest.
  • Good Jobs Colorado, which has spent $1.2 million on ads, is the only super PAC on TV attacking Stapleton and supporting Polis.

The 6th Congressional District contest between GOP U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman Democratic newcomer Jason Crow still tops the list in terms of spending in Colorado, at $18 million, even with the apparent abandonment of Coffman by national Republican organizations.

VOTER GUIDE 2018: Resources, explainers, latest news and more

Many stations don’t file updates when advertisers cancel, so the total may be lower because the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund cut their contracts.

Here are some of the other highlights of ad spending during the last two weeks:

  • Crow is actually now the biggest spender in the 6th District at $3.4 million. Coffman has booked about $2.2 million worth of ads.
  • Coloradans for Fairness, a state-level super PAC, has contracts for nearly $2 million in key state Senate districts, where several candidates are airing their own ads, too.
  • Great Judges for a Great Colorado is airing nearly $60,000 in TV ads. The super PAC is run by former Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who didn’t return calls  seeking details about his effort. At least one of the ads targets District Judge Edward Moss in the 17th Judicial District in the suburbs north of Denver. A commission unanimously concluded that Moss meets judicial standards, and “is a well-respected leader in the Colorado court system” on matters of ethics. It’s unclear what other judges are being targeted by the group, which hasn’t yet filed required notices of the independent spending.
  • In the contest for Secretary of State, Griswold is getting help in her challenge to GOP incumbent Wayne Williams. iVote is airing $300,000 worth of TV ads supporting Griswold, although only $36,000 worth has been reported to the FCC. The ads say she’ll take on corporate money in politics and close loopholes in lobbyist regulation.
  • In other congressional contests, GOP Rep. Scott Tipton is spending about $570,000 and his Democratic opponent Diane Mitsch Bush is spending $317,000 in their battle in the 3rd CD that encompasses the Western Slope across southern Colorado to Pueblo.
  • Democratic challenger Stephany Rose Spaulding is spending more than $81,000 on TV ads in her Colorado Springs contest against Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn. He isn’t on the air yet.

Here’s a look at advertising by advertisers that have spent $50,000 or more:

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