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A screenshot from an American Policy Fund’s TV ad that began airing in Denver.
A screenshot from an American Policy Fund’s TV ad that began airing in Denver.

A political action committee funded by contractors that supports the candidacy of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea, who owns a Denver construction company, launched a $2 million TV ad campaign this week attacking O’Dea’s opponent, Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

The spending comes as national Republican super PACs, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Senate Leadership Fund, which is associated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have been noticeably uninvolved in Colorado’s U.S. Senate race. National Democratic groups have also thus far stayed on the sidelines. 

Spending by those groups is traditionally a sign of how competitive a race is.

The PAC behind the new ads, the American Policy Fund, is the first significant outside spender in the general election contest, and their new buy could be a sign that things are heating up with a month until ballots start being mailed to Colorado voters.

Both Bennet and O’Dea have been spending heavily on TV ads — Bennet at $3 million and O’Dea at $2.2 million — but super PACs traditionally are the biggest spenders on TV ads in competitive congressional races.

The American Policy Fund ads, which attack Bennet over inflation rates, will air through Oct. 4, according to political ad contracts filed with the Federal Communications Commission and analyzed by The Colorado Sun. Four Denver TV stations filed contracts with American Policy Fund late Tuesday. The group’s TV ad spending includes $150,000 for a 30-second ad to air on CBS during the Denver Broncos game on Oct. 2.

The ad says Bennet “voted with (President Joe) Biden 98% of the time for bigger government and more spending. Now, Colorado families face rising costs and record-breaking gas prices.” A FiveThirtyEight analysis of Senate voting records confirms that Bennet is one of 16 Democrats voting with Biden 98% of the time, while 14 Democrats voted with the president 100% of the time.

The ad cites an editorial attributed to The Denver Gazette saying Bennet is “out of touch with Colorado” and “left our state worse than he found it.” That editorial actually says it was written by the “Colorado Springs Gazette editorial board” and the opinion piece doesn’t appear on the Denver Gazette’s digital site

The two news outlets are owned by Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz, a top Republican political donor.

Bennet’s campaign spokeswoman, Georgina Beven, said in a statement that the American Policy Fund is “funded by (O’Dea’s) wealthy friends, and oil and gas companies to prop up his campaign.”

“Whether helping pass the Inflation Reduction Act, fighting to hold big oil companies accountable, cutting regulations to improve our supply chains or investing in U.S. manufacturing, Michael has fought to support the livelihoods of hard-working families,” Beven said.

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The American Policy Fund spent nearly $600,000 supporting O’Dea in his primary contest against Republican state Rep. Ron Hanks. It also spent about $109,000 airing anti-Bennet ads in early August. 

The Texas-based super PAC previously reserved $1 million worth of TV ads to air in Denver Oct. 11 through Oct. 24. The new $2 million ad buy brings the group’s total spending in Colorado on O’Dea’s behalf to nearly $4 million.

Nearly $1.4 million of the $1.5 million raised by the super PAC through the end of June came from Coloradans. Many of the Colorado donors were construction companies or their owners

Brighton’s Transwest Automotive Group, Adams City’s Hutchison Inc., and Bruce Wagner, owner of Aurora’s Wagner Equipment Co., each donated $200,000 to the American Policy Fund. 

Golden’s Jeffrey Keller, CEO of APC Construction, gave $150,000, while his company donated $100,000. APC President John Keller gave $50,000 to the PAC. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association also gave the group $100,000.

The American Policy Fund doesn’t have to report its latest donations and donors to the Federal Election Commission until Oct. 15. 

Another super PAC, Our American Century, which is aligned with Republicans, reported spending about $500,000 this month on ads opposing Bennet. Climate Power Action, a group aligned with Democrats, reported spending about $192,000 on mailers supporting Bennet.

The NRSC spent $241,000 on cable TV ads criticizing Bennet in early August. That spending came from a fund designated for legal expenses and is now the subject of an FEC complaint, the New York Times reported Wednesday.While the NRSC and Senate Leadership Fund haven’t been spending heavily in Colorado they are dropping millions on competitive Senate races in other states, including Georgia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @fishnette

The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...