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Coors Field, photographed on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, in downtown Denver. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Politics played a central role in Major League Baseball’s decision to move its 2021 All-Star Game to Denver from Georgia, where state lawmakers passed a law restricting voting.

The league’s interest in politics doesn’t stop there.

In the run up to the All-Star Game Tuesday night, The Colorado Sun took a look at political spending by Denver professional sports folks from 2011 through this year.

Dick Monfort gives big to the GOP

Colorado Rockies co-owner Dick Monfort may not be willing to spend big on Nolan Arenado, but he has dropped a lot of money on state and federal political candidates.

Politics runs in the Monfort family, which built a Greeley agriculture business into a fortune. Dick’s father, Kenneth Monfort, served in the Colorado House in the 1960s. He was an “anti-war Democrat,” according to The Denver Post.  

These days, Dick Monfort is known as a supporter of Colorado Republican politics. 

Dick Monfort gave $20,000 to the state GOP from 2016 to 2018, and $6,200 to former U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s 2014 and 2020 campaigns. He’s donated another $20,000 to other Republican candidates since 2011. 

While Monfort gives big to Republicans, three people who said they work as Colorado Rockies ushers donated a total of nearly $1,800 to Democratic candidates at the federal level. None of the current or recent star players for the Rockies came up in a federal donor search, but former first baseman Todd Helton donated $550 to former state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a Republican, in 2014 and $500 to a national veterans’ PAC in 2017. 

At the state level, Dick Monfort has donated more than $10,000 to Republican candidates and committees since 2011 and about $2,800 to Democratic candidates. His brother and Rockies co-owner, Charlie Monfort, gave $3,400 to Republicans and nearly $1,400 to Democrats. 

Both Rockies’ owners donated to Democractic U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper’s gubernatorial campaigns, but they didn’t give to his successful 2020 defeat of Gardner at the federal level.

Dick Monfort’s biggest giving in the last 10 years is to state-level ballot initiatives, more than $80,000. Most of that, $50,000, went to last year’s successful campaign to raise nicotine taxes to pay for universal preschool in Colorado.

But at the federal level, the MLB political action committee is the biggest Monfort beneficiary. Dick and Charlie Monfort each donated $40,000 to the PAC from 2011 through this year.

Charlie Monfort’s only other federal donation was $5,000 to the Colorado Republican Party in 2016.

MLB spends on politics and wants to know about yours

MLB spent $8.6 million on lobbying the federal government over the last 10 years, and the league’s federal political action committee donated nearly $1.5 million to candidates during that span, according to OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics.

But money isn’t the only political force in baseball.

An MLB survey sent to fans who attend games this year ends with this question: “Do you consider yourself to be a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent or a member of a Third Party?” 

Rockies survey political question
The Colorado Rockies and other Major League Baseball teams are asking fans about their politics.

According to league spokespeople, the question is an attempt to gauge views about returning in-person to watch baseball games, with people’s political affiliation playing a key factor that “often impacts their views about the pandemic.” They wouldn’t share the results.

John Elway is Colorado’s biggest pro-sports spender

The Bowlen family, which owns the Denver Broncos, donated $65,000 to the NFL’s Gridiron PAC over the last 10 years, according to Federal Election Commission records. And numerous Broncos players donated a total of nearly $34,000 to the NFL Players Association PAC.

But that giving is overshadowed by former Super Bowl-winning quarterback John Elway, now president of football operations for the team.

Elway tops Colorado pro-sports donors at the federal level. He has donated nearly $154,000 to Republican candidates and committees in the past 10 years.

Empower Field at Mile High Stadium. (Unsplash photo)

That spending includes $32,800 given to the Republican National Committee. Another $14,825 of Elway’s money went to a federal leadership committee formed by Stapleton when he ran for governor in 2018. Most of those dollars ended up with the Colorado Republican Party.

Federal Election Commission records show Elway gave $11,200 to a committee supporting Republicans in the Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs last year, and more than $11,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2020.

Elway donated more than $10,000 to Gardner’s Senate campaigns, and $8,800 to former Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s campaigns through the years. Elway also donated $7,700 to former GOP President Donald Trump’s campaigns.

The Broncos’ other Super Bowl winning quarterback, Peyton Manning, gave more than $23,000 to GOP candidates between 2012 and 2017.

And let’s not forget about Kroenkes

Meanwhile, Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche President Josh Walton Kroenke gave $33,400 to the NRSC in 2016. 

His sister, Whitney Kroenke, donated $19,000 to Democratic candidates and committees in 2018 and 2020.

Josh, Whitney and their mother, team owner Ann Kroenke, each gave $5,000 to the NFL’s Gridiron PAC at the end of 2020. They also donated $5,000 each in 2015, as did Josh and Whitney’s father, Stan Kroenke.

Stan Kroenke, the family patriarch who owns the Los Angeles Rams, the Colorado Rapids, Colorado Mammoth and other teams, also donated $33,400 to the NRSC in 2016. But he also donated $100,000 to Democratic Party committees and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign the same year.

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...