Customers leave Argonaut Wine &Liquor in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood loaded down with alcohol on March 23 after Mayor Hancock's order shutting down the city did not exempt liquor stores. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

They say whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting. But there will be plenty of battling over booze in this year’s election in Colorado.

A major influx of money — about $8 million — poured last month into the committees backing ballot initiatives that would let grocery stores sell wine and allow third-party delivery services to transport alcohol, as well as an initiative that would open the door for liquor retailers to open as many locations as they’d like in Colorado.

Wine in Grocery Stores raised most of the cash, at roughly $7.5 million. The group is backing Propositions 125 and 126. The measures would, respectively, let grocery stores sell wine and third-party services deliver alcohol.

The biggest contributor to the committee was the delivery service Instacart at $2.8 million, bringing its total investment in the group to $3.3 million. Whole Foods gave Wine in Grocery Stores $1.3 million, while Target contributed $1.1 million, Albertsons Safeway gave $1.1 million and Kroger, which owns King Soopers, gave $1 million.

The group had a whopping $8.35 million in the bank to begin September, giving it one of the largest campaign war chests of any group or candidate in Colorado heading into the home stretch before the Nov. 8 election.

Coloradans for Liquor Fairness, which is supporting Proposition 124 to let liquor retailers open more locations, received $400,000 last month from Colorado Fine Wines & Spirits, a subsidiary of Total Wine & Spirits, the national chain that, along with its owners, is bankrolling the measure.

Right now, liquor retailers are allowed to open only three stores in Colorado.

Keeping Colorado Local, a group run by independent liquor stores fighting the three ballot measures, has raised a pittance compared to its rivals. The committee raised a little less than $200,000 last month, starting September with about the same amount in its coffers.

A handful of other committees backing initiatives on the November ballot this year had big fundraising hauls in August.

  • Coloradans for Affordable Housing Now, which is supporting Proposition 123 to divert 0.1% of taxable income from the general fund to the state affordable housing fund, raised $880,000 last month. The money came from nonprofits, including Fort Collins-based Bohemian Companies, the Arvada-based Community First Foundation and the Denver-based Caring for Colorado Foundation at $250,000 each. The measure, if approved by voters, is forecast to generate about $270 million in its first year and reduce the amount of money available for Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights refunds.
  • Coloradans for Ballot Transparency, which is supporting Proposition GG, a measure referred to the ballot by the legislature, raised $600,000 last month. The measure would require detailed information about how income tax initiatives on the ballot would impact various income brackets to be more prominently displayed to voters. The national Democratic nonprofit Sixteen Thirty Fund accounted for $500,000 of the haul. The Colorado Sun refers to the nonprofit as a dark-money group because it is a political group that does not have to disclose its donors.
  • Healthy School Meals for All Colorado Students, which is backing Proposition FF, raised about $525,000 in August. The measure referred to the ballot by the legislature would reduce state income tax deductions for people with income over $300,000 and use the savings to provide free K-12 school meals for all students. The Community First Foundation and Hunger Free Colorado each contributed $250,000 to the committee, which began September with roughly $600,000 in its bank account.

Natural Medicine Colorado, which is backing Proposition 122, the measure that would decriminalize and regulate the use of “magic” mushrooms, raised just $15,000 in August and ended the month with about the same amount in the bank.

The committee raised and spent millions earlier this year, much of it from New Approach PAC, a Washington, D.C.-based political nonprofit, to collect enough signatures to make the ballot.

Path to Zero, which is supporting Proposition 121, a measure that would reduce the state income tax rate to 4.4% from 4.55%, didn’t report any donations or spending for August.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....