• Original Reporting
  • Sources Cited
Original Reporting This article contains new, firsthand information uncovered by its reporter(s). This includes directly interviewing sources and research / analysis of primary source documents.
Sources Cited As a news piece, this article cites verifiable, third-party sources which have all been thoroughly fact-checked and deemed credible by the Newsroom in accordance with the Civil Constitution.
Democrat Jared Polis, left, and Republican Walker Stapleton, right, are among the top 10 individual spenders in the 2018 Colorado elections. (The Colorado Sun)

The 2018 election is setting record for campaign spending in Colorado.

The cash raised in the governor’s contest broke records even before primary votes were counted. And it’s only increased since then.

Ten individuals have put a combined $38 million into Colorado contests so far, a Colorado Sun analysis finds. And it should come as no surprise that three of the state’s top 10 individual donors are current or former gubernatorial candidates.

MORE: The top 10 corporate donors in Colorado’s 2018 election — and what they want

The Sun examined campaign donations at the state level reported through Oct. 10, as well as contributions at the federal level reported through Sept. 30.

(We will update the list in early December after final post-election filings are due.)

The amounts below do not include how much the donors may have given to nonprofit groups that spend on politics but don’t disclose their donors. For people who live outside Colorado, the analysis included their donations to Colorado candidates at the federal level, but not other candidates from across the country. Other caveats are noted where needed.

Here’s a look at the top 10 individual donors in the 2018 election:

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

1. Jared Polis: $21.9 million

Jared Polis speaks at a campaign event for Colorado Democrats in Denver’s Washington Park on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

The self-funding Democratic candidate for governor tops the list. (And he’s actually spent more than $22.8 million in his run for the top spot in the state counting the $1 million that came after the latest financial report deadline.)

Polis, a Boulder congressman who is one of the richest members of the U.S. House, made millions as a tech entrepreneur before turning to politics, put more than $51,000 into his congressional coffers before he pivoted to run for governor.

And he’s donated more than $93,000 to other candidates and Democratic party interests this election. Those include Senate candidates in Alabama, Texas and elsewhere, and congressional candidates in Colorado and across the nation.

2. Victor Mitchell: $5 million

A businessman and former one-term state representative, Republican Mitchell spent most of his cash to finish second in the four-way GOP gubernatorial primary earlier this year.

His sole federal donation this cycle was $250 to state Sen. Owen Hill, who lost his primary challenge to GOP U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in Colorado Springs. Mitchell also spent about $2,500 more giving to various campaigns and county parties.

3. Michael Bloomberg: $2.5 million

Michael Bloomberg Photo By: Ralph Alswang Photographer via Center for American Progress licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The former New York City mayor gave $2 million to Frontier Fairness, a super PAC supporting former state Sen. Michael Johnston in the four-way Democratic gubernatorial primary. Johnston finished third.

More recently, Bloomberg gave $500,000 to Fair Maps Colorado, supporting Amendments Y and Z, which would change how the state apportions congressional seats and legislative districts.

It’s been reported that Bloomberg will spend $80 million on the midterm elections with a goal of a Democratic majority in the U.S. House. He has yet to donate directly to Colorado congressional candidates, though some of his money donated to federal super PACs (but not included in this analysis) may result in ads on your TV screen or fliers in your mailbox.

MORE: The final governor’s race debate set the stakes for the election. Here’s three things we learned.

4. Pat Stryker: $2.4 million

Pat Stryker (File photo)

Pat Stryker is one of the Democratic super donors and a major player in Colorado. In 2014, the billionaire medical device heiress from Fort Collins topped a similar list, and in 2012, she came in third.

This year, $1 million of Stryker’s money went to the Fair Maps issue committee. She donated $400,000 to liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century, which is working to elect Democrat Jared Polis in the Colorado governor’s race. She also donated heavily to Democratic party committees and to a range of state-level Democratic candidates.

5. Kent Thiry: $1.4 million

Kent Thiry (via Twitter)

The CEO and chairman of DaVita, the Denver-based kidney dialysis company, is a significant backer of Fair Maps and he is appearing in TV ads for the effort. He gave $1 million to the committee and nearly $220,000 to a predecessor committee.

He also gave $100,000 to Frontier Fairness to support Johnston, and he’s the only one on this list who donated to both Democratic and Republican candidates.

6. Tatnall Hillman: $1.3 million

A retired Navy reserve officer and industrial heir, Hillman lives in Aspen and gives to conservative causes.

He’s donated $218,000 to a super PAC supporting Republican Wendy Rogers in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District and $200,000 to Urban Victory Fund, another GOP super PAC working outside Colorado.

In Colorado, Hillman gave $41,000 to the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners super PAC. But most of his cash goes to federal candidates.

7. Walker Stapleton: $1.1 million

Walker Stapleton, the Republican running for Colorado governor, speaks at the Pro15 candidate debates in Weld County on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. (Jacob Paul, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Most of the Republican treasurer’s money went to his win in the four-way GOP gubernatorial primary.

He’s only given about $4,000 to state level candidates and committees beyond his own campaign, and nothing to federal candidates. His mother, Dorothy Walker Stapleton, donated $250,000 to the Republican Governors Association in August.

He also forgave a $223,000 loan he made to his 2010 campaign for state treasurer this year, but that’s not included in his total.

8. Reid Hoffman: $1 million

“Reid Hoffman” by Joi Ito is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The LinkedIn co-founder gave $1 million to Frontier Fairness, the super PAC supporting Democrat Johnston’s losing bid for his party’s nomination for governor.

He also donated $2,700 to Democrat Jason Crow’s challenge of Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman in the competitive 6th Congressional District.

9. Pete Coors: $710,000

Pete Coors (Provided by MolsonCoors)

The Molson Coors executive from the Golden brewing family is a significant GOP donor.

Coors gave $250,000 to the Colorado Republican Committee Independent Expenditure Committee, a super PAC that is sending mailers and airing TV ads supporting GOP candidates in the state.

He also donated $135,000 to the Republican National Committee and $100,000 to the Republican Governors Association, which is spending big in Colorado on Stapleton’s behalf.

10. Phil Anschutz: $563,000

The billionaire industrialist who owns the Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper and its affiliated Colorado Politics website is a significant conservative donor.

This total does not include $535,000 in donations made by his wife, Nancy, and another $1.2 million from The Anschutz Corp, which would rank the Anschutz family third on this list.

Anschutz and his wife donated to federal Republican Party committees, as well as GOP congressmen in Colorado and elsewhere. They’ve also donated to some state level committees and candidates.


Sandra Fish has covered government and politics in Iowa, Florida, New Mexico and Colorado. She was a full-time journalism instructor at the University of Colorado for eight years, and her work as appeared on CPR, KUNC, The Washington Post, Roll...