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Oil and gas facilities in Weld County on Oct. 19, 2018. (Jacob Paul, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Seven of the top 10 organizations spending the most money in the 2018 election represent the oil and gas industry, a Colorado Sun analysis shows.

The energy companies and allies are focused on two ballot initiatives and have so far spent $29 million on the effort to defeat Proposition 112, which calls for greater setbacks from drilling operations, and pass Amendment 74, which requires compensation for government actions that reduce a property’s value.

Other donations are going toward the governor’s mansion and the state Senate, where some companies are donating to both parties.

MORE: A look at the top 10 individual donors in the 2018 election

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 spending will only increase ahead of Nov. 6 and it’s probably a low-estimate because there’s no way to know how much these corporations and nonprofit groups are giving to like-minded dark money political groups.

For groups not based in Colorado, the analysis included their donations to Colorado candidates at the federal level, but not to other federal candidates or groups.

(National groups putting all their money into a single super PAC, such as the Republican Governors Association or the LCV Political Engagement Committee, are not included in this analysis.)

Colorado allows corporate donations to state-level super PACs and issue committees, but not to candidates. For that, corporations typically set up political action committees, and those are included in the corporate tallies.

Here are the top 10 for corporate and nonprofit spenders in Colorado in the 2018 midterms:

1. Noble Energy: $6.9 million

This Houston-based company, the second largest oil and gas producer in Colorado, put about $6.4 million into Protect Colorado, the vast majority of its spending this year.

Protect Colorado is working against Proposition 112, which would require oil and gas development to be at least 2,500 feet from homes, schools and businesses. The organization also the primary spender supporting Amendment 74, which would require governments to compensate people if regulations (i.e., on oil and gas development) lower their property value.

Noble also is airing TV ads opposing Proposition 112 separately from Protect Colorado.

Other top recipients of the company’s money included the Republican Senate Majority Fund at $200,000, the Democratic Governors Association at $105,000 and the Republican Governors Association at $100,000.

The partisan breakdown: $373,850 to Republican groups and candidates, $110,750 to Democrats.

2. Anadarko Petroleum: $6.86 million

Like Noble, the Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum, the largest driller in Colorado, put most of its spending so far — $6.6 million — into Protect Colorado.

The company also gave $105,000 to the Senate Majority Fund, which is trying to preserve a one-seat Republican majority in the state Senate. It donated $80,000 to the national Democratic Governors Association, and $55,000 to Coloradans for Fairness, which works to elect Democratic state Senate candidates.

The partisan breakdown: $152,200 to Democrats, $127,550 to Republicans.

MORE: Opposing oil and gas ballot measures respond to Colorado’s contentious drilling climate

3. Sixteen Thirty Fund: $6.2 million

This national nonprofit is spending big around the nation on behalf of Democratic interests in 2018. Sixteen Thirty donated nearly $4 million of its Colorado total to Democratic groups through the most recent reports.

In Colorado, Sixteen Thirty Fund has so far provided $2.5 million to Coloradans for Fairness, the group trying to win a Democratic majority in the state Senate. And it’s the primary donor, at $1.7 million, behind Proposition 111, an effort to limit interest rates on payday loans.

The group also gave $920,000 to Good Jobs Colorado, the super PAC backing Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis in the governor’s race.

Because it’s a nonprofit, Sixteen Thirty doesn’t have to report its donors. In the past, labor unions and conservation organizations were among the group’s contributors.

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

4. PDC Energy: $5.8 million

This Denver-based oil and gas company, the third largest driller in the state, gave more than $5 million to Protect Colorado.

It also gave $555,000 to the Republican Governors Association and $116,500 to the GOP-aligned Senate Majority Fund.

The partisan breakdown: $720,500 to Republicans and $13,200 to Democrats.

5. Colorado Petroleum Council: $4.3 million

Credit all of this group’s money to Protect Colorado. The council is a subsidiary of nonprofit business association American Petroleum Institute and a leading advocate of the state’s oil and gas companies.

6. Extraction Oil & Gas: $3.8 million

Protect Colorado received $3.3 million from this Denver-based company to focus on the ballot measures. Extraction’s operations are some of the closest to residential development along the Front Range.

Extraction also gave $100,000 to the Colorado Republican Party’s super PAC, and $85,000 to the Democratic Governors Association.

The partisan breakdown: $240,500 to Republicans, $87,000 to Democrats

7. Workforce Fairness Institute: $2.3 million

This nonprofit that opposes unions gave $1.25 million to the Colorado Campaign for Jobs and Opportunity, and $1 million to Better Colorado Now. Both those super PACs support Republican Walker Stapleton in the governor’s contest.

Like Sixteen Thirty, Workforce Fairness is a nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose its donors, so it’s impossible to know where the money is originating.

8. SRC Energy: $2.1 million

The Denver-based SRC focused all its campaign cash on ballot initiatives, giving to Protect Colorado. Its oil and gas production activities are primarily northeast of Denver.

MORE: A breakdown of every statewide ballot issue in simple, nonpartisan language

9. Chevron: $2 million

The California-based oil and gas company, whose Colorado operations focus mostly in the northwest part of the state, gave $1.4 million to Protect Colorado.

It gave another $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association and $62,500 to the Senate Majority Fund. The company also gave $50,700 to the Democratic Governors Association.

The partisan breakdown: $582,775 to Republicans, $55,700 to Democrats

10. Education Reform Now Advocacy: $2 million

This national nonprofit that advocates for education reform donated mostly to Democratic causes.

That includes $650,000 to Good Jobs Colorado, the super PAC airing ads in the governor’s race, and $551,000 to Our Colorado Values, a super PAC working to help Democratic state House campaigns.

The group’s only non-Democratic donations were $10,000 each to groups advocating for ballot initiatives. As a nonprofit, the group doesn’t disclose its donors.


Special to The Colorado Sun
Twitter: @fishnette