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U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, left, and his Republican challenger, Joe O'Dea. (Colorado Sun photos)

A dark-money group affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, is funding the more than $3 million in TV ads attacking Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea for his stance on abortion, according to a new federal campaign finance filing. 

Majority Forward is the sole funder of 53 Peaks, a newly formed Democratic super PAC that began airing the ads in late September. Majority Forward is a political nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose its donors, which is why The Colorado Sun refers to it as a dark-money group. It is the same group that funded ads in the 2020 Democratic U.S. Senate primary attacking former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who lost to now-Sen. John Hickenlooper. 

Majority Forward is also a primary backer of Senate Majority PAC, a political action committee aligned with Schumer that aired ads in this year’s Republican U.S. Senate primary backing O’Dea’s opponent, election denier state Rep. Ron Hanks.

53 Peaks reported spending nearly $2.9 million opposing O’Dea, filings made Saturday to the Federal Elections Commission show.

Saturday was the deadline for PACs and candidates to report their quarterly fundraising and spending numbers, revealing where they stand heading into the final weeks of the 2022 election. 

The documents show Democratic candidates and groups are leading the campaign cash race.

Democrat Adam Frisch topped all of Colorado’s U.S. House candidates in fundraising from July 1 through Sept. 30, including his 3rd Congressional District opponent, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Garfield County Republican. The former Aspen city councilman brought in nearly $1.7 million, with about 38% of the haul coming from people who gave him less than $200

Democrats running in the 7th and 8th Congressional Districts, which are open seats, significantly outraised their opponents. Bennet also outraised O’Dea by a large margin.

Incumbent Bennet continues to outraise O’Dea

Bennet raised $5.3 million during the third fundraising quarter, compared with the $3 million raised by  O’Dea, a Denver construction company owner who is running for political office for the first time. 

O’Dea loaned his campaign $1 million, bringing his total investment in his Senate bid to $2.7 million, about 41% of the money he has raised since announcing his campaign.

Both the Bennet and O’Dea campaigns spent heavily on TV advertising in recent months, though the Democrat’s cash advantage allowed him to outspend his GOP opponent on TV air time $4.8 million to $2 million.

Bennet entered October with $5.9 million in cash, compared with $712,000 for O’Dea.

Federal super PACs began advertising heavily in the Senate contest in September, with Giffords PAC, a group pushing for tighter gun regulations, joining 53 Peaks to air TV ads against O’Dea. Giffords reported spending more than $2.5 million on ads attacking O’Dea on gun violence.

And LCV Victory Fund, which is affiliated with the League of Conservation Voters, is spending nearly $800,000 on ads opposing O’Dea, while Everytown for Gun Safety is spending $786,000 on ads opposing the Republican that began Saturday.

The National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund is spending more than $1.1 million supporting Bennet.

Another super PAC, American Policy Fund, reported spending nearly $4.2 million mostly to oppose Bennet in the Senate contest. That group supported O’Dea in the primary, as well, with funding from Colorado contractors and oil and gas interests. More recently, Wyoming investment heir and conservative donor Timothy Mellon gave the group $4 million. Last week, the Senate Leadership Fund, affiliated with Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, announced it gave the group $1.25 million.

From left: State Rep. Yadira Caraveo, a Democrat , and state Sen. Barb Kirkmeyer, a Republican. The two are running against each other in Colorado’s new 8th Congressional District. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Caraveo outraises Kirkmeyer in toss-up 8th District

Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo raised $1.5 million in the third quarter, compared to $666,000 raised by Republican state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer as they compete in Colorado’s highly competitive new 8th Congressional District.

Kirkmeyer’s fundraising haul last quarter was significantly higher than the approximately $400,000 she raised to win the four-way GOP June primary. But Caraveo, who faced no primary, has raised 2.5 times more than her opponent during the 2022 election cycle.

The Democrat entered October with about $583,000 in cash to spend, compared with $310,000 for Kirkmeyer.

Caraveo spent nearly $1.2 million on TV advertising in September. Kirkmeyer’s campaign spent about $237,000 on TV advertising, but the National Republican Congressional Committee supplemented that.

Outside groups are spending far more than either candidate, at a total of $9.5 million for the general election reported through Friday.

Boebert maintains spending, cash advantage in 3rd District

Frisch not only outraised Boebert $1.7 million to $936,000, he also outspent her between July and the end of September.

Boebert spent $1.3 million, mostly on direct mail and TV advertising. But Frisch spent  $1.5 million, much of that on TV and direct mail.

Frisch loaned his campaign $715,000 during the Democratic primary election.

Frisch is getting $110,000 worth of TV advertising help from Colorado United PAC. That super PAC didn’t organize until early this month, and won’t have to disclose its donors until the Oct. 27 pre-election FEC filing.

Pettersen outraises Aadland in 7th CD, has considerable cash

Democratic state Sen. Brittany Pettersen raised $1.1 million as she seeks to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat.

Her Republican opponent, Army veteran and first-time candidate Erik Aadland, raised $628,000. His $612,000 in spending included a $45,000 in loan repayments to himself. He began October with only $64,000, while Pettersen had $875,000.

Pettersen spent $938,000 on TV and digital advertising, while Aadland spent $133,000 on cable TV advertising.

For Colorado’s Future, a super PAC supporting Aadland reported owing nearly $305,000 to Telephone Town Hall Meeting, a Golden company responsible for most of the mailings and texts to oppose Pettersen and Tim Reichert, his opponent in the GOP primary. The PAC has raised only $127,500, and reported spending nearly $79,000 against Pettersen in the general election.

By listing its independent spending as debts, the PAC avoids disclosing its donors, potentially until after the election.

The congressional fundraising chart

Here’s a look at third-quarter and total campaign finance numbers for all major-party congressional candidates.

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @fishnette