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The top 10 Colorado donors to federal candidates and political spending committees during the 2022 election cycle gave a total of $16.5 million, with 60% of that going to Republican candidates and committees.

That’s based on a Colorado Sun analysis of campaign contributions from Coloradans via data from the Federal Election Commission. 

The amount pales in comparison to national megadonors, who gave hundreds of millions to candidates and super PACs ahead of the 2022 election. Only the top two Colorado donors made OpenSecrets’ list of top 100 federal donors last year — Tatnall Hillman, an Aspen oil and gas heir and retired Navy captain, and Merle Chambers, a Denver philanthropist who led an oil and gas firm. Hillman gave $3.6 million to Republicans, while Chambers gave $2.6 million, most of it to Democrats.

National super PACs affiliated with the Republican or Democratic parties were the top recipients from Colorado’s top 10 donors, receiving more than $10 million of the $16.5 million the top donors donated to federal candidates and committees.

But plenty of candidates in Colorado and in other states, often in competitive contests, also benefited from the top Colorado donors’ campaign cash.

The top 10 donors may have given more money by routing their contributions through dark-money groups, political nonprofits that don’t have to disclose their donors. But that money is virtually impossible to track.

Here’s a detailed look at how each of the top 10 federal election donors from Colorado in 2022 spent their money:

1. Tatnall Hillman

Hillman inherited his wealth from his family’s oil, coal and steel businesses.

Most of Hillman’s money went to Drain the DC Swamp, a Republican super PAC. That  $2.7 million accounted for nearly all the PAC’s $2.8 million raised in 2022. Drain the DC Swamp spent nearly $2.9 million, much of it in Ohio, where the Republican congressional candidates it supported often lost in primary or general elections.

Hillman also gave directly to many national candidates, often exceeding the $5,800 candidate limits and racking up more than $250,000 in refunds.

Of that $250,000, nearly $60,000 was refunded by the campaign of recently elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican. The maximum federal donation for candidates was $5,800. 

Among the federal candidates who didn’t get cash from Hillman: Colorado GOP U.S. Senate nominee Joe O’Dea.

There’s no record of Hillman donating to the Colorado Republican Party’s federal committee or any state-level GOP PACs or candidates.

2. Merle Chambers

Chambers is a lawyer who served as CEO of a Denver-based oil and gas company for 20 years. After selling the company in 1997, she turned to philanthropy — and Democratic politics.

She donated $627,500 to various Democratic National Committee accounts, including nearly $300,000 each to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. 

Chambers also donated to several federal committees for state Democratic parties and Democratic candidates in key U.S. Senate contests in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Ohio and Wisconsin. 

She also donated to the reelection campaign of Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who defeated O’Dea, as well as the five Colorado Democrats who won their U.S. House races last year.

At the state level, Chambers donated $709,000 to candidates and committees during the 2022 election cycle. That included $250,000 to All Together Colorado, a super PAC supporting Democratic state Senate candidates.

3. Michael Smith

Smith, a Broomfield oil and gas executive, donated nearly $2.5 million to federal candidates and political spending committees, with most of that benefiting the GOP. 

Smith’s spending included the biggest one-time 2022 federal political donations by a Coloradan: two $1 million contributions to the Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC affiliated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky. The first donation came in October 2021 while the other was made in October 2022.

Smith donated $200,000 to a super PAC supporting Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in Alaska. He also donated directly to Murkowski and many other GOP candidates.

But Smith donated smaller amounts, totaling about $81,000, to Democratic candidates, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. 

Smith didn’t contribute to Bennet, O’Dea or any of the other 2022 federal candidates in Colorado, nor did Smith give any money at the state level in Colorado.

4. Phil Anschutz

Los Angeles Galaxy owner Phil Anschutz looks on before the first half of a second leg soccer match of the Western Conference semifinals of the MLS cup playoffs in Commerce City, Colo., on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. Colorado won 1-0 and advances to the next round of the playoffs. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Anschutz, one of the wealthiest 200 people in the world, is worth about $11 billion. His Anschutz Corp. owns the Los Angeles Kings and the arena where they play, the Coachella Valley Music Festival, and Clarity Media, which includes The Colorado Springs and Denver Gazettes.

The Sun combined donations from the Anschutz Corp. with those of its owner. That revealed nearly $2.5 million in federal donations during the 2022 election cycle. It included $1 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with Sen. McConnell. 

Anschutz gave $375,000 to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC supporting House Republicans. The National Republican Congressional Committee received $290,700 from Anschutz, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee $271,000.

Anschutz also donated to several GOP congressional candidates, including the $5,800 maximum to O’Dea, and to state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer in her unsuccessful 8th Congressional District campaign. He also gave $5,800 to U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona before she left the Democratic Party in December to become unaffiliated. She is up for reelection in 2024.

Anschutz donated $17,100 to state-level candidates and committees for the 2022 election cycle.

5. Pat Stryker

Bohemian Foundation founder Pat Stryker smiles with others as the Jazz Alley was unveiled outside the first floor of Fort Collins’ Mitchell Block in 2011. (Fort Collins Coloradoan)

Stryker, who lives in Fort Collins, inherited a portion of her family’s shares in a medical technology company, the Stryker Corporation. She’s been a major donor to Democratic causes for more than two decades, including spending $3 million to oppose a 2002 ballot measure in Colorado that would have prevented bilingual K-12 education. 

During the 2022 election cycle, Stryker gave more than $1.5 million to Democratic candidates and causes on the federal level. Stryker donated $500,000 to the DSCC and $292,000 to the DCCC. 

She also gave to a range of congressional candidates, including $5,800 each to Bennet and U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, of Denver; Joe Neguse, of Lafayette; Brittany Pettersen, of Lakewood; Jason Crow, of Centennial; and Yadira Caraveo, of Thornton.

Stryker gave about $5,800 to state-level candidates and committees for the 2022 election cycle.

6. Larry Mizel

Businessman and philanthropist Larry Mizel at an event honoring veterans on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Mizel is chairman of MDC Holdings, a Denver real estate development company. He was the most bipartisan donor on The Sun’s top 10 list.

The vast majority of Mizel’s federal political spending — $830,450 of a little more than $1 million total — benefited Republican candidates and committees. He donated $200,000 to the Senate Leadership Fund and the same amount to United Democracy Project, a federal super PAC that supported and opposed Democratic candidates in congressional primaries.

Mizel’s federal election 2022 spending benefited Democratic and Republican candidates. 

Bennet received campaign donations from Mizel, as did GOP U.S. House candidates Kirkmeyer, Erik Aadland and Tim Reichert, as well as Republican U.S. Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn.

At the state level, Mizel donated nearly $78,000, including $45,000 to the Senate Majority Fund, the state-level super PAC working to secure a GOP majority in the Colorado Senate.

Mizel also gave $25,000 to Strong Colorado for All, the super PAC supporting Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. And Mizel was one of five co-chairs of Polis’ 2023 inaugural committee, Colorado For All.

7. Thomas Barron

Barron is a Boulder author of the young adult series The Merlin Saga and a longtime Democratic donor, giving nearly $723,000 at the federal level during the 2022 cycle.

His biggest donation was $250,000 to the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund, followed by $73,000 to the DSCC and $65,100 to the DCCC. He also gave $60,000 to The Lincoln Project, a group that opposed Republican candidates aligned with former President Donald Trump and supported Democrats running against them in 2022.

Barron also donated to former U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger and the Illinois Republican’s leadership PAC. Kinzinger voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol. He didn’t run for reelection.

Barron donated more than $6,800 to state-level candidates and committees in Colorado.

8. Adam Lewis

Lewis, who lives in Aspen, lists himself as a self-employed investor and philanthropist. He gave nearly $704,000 to Democratic candidates and committees in 2022.

Of that, $419,000 went to the LCV Victory Fund. Another $100,000 went to People for Good Sense, a super PAC that raised $269,000 and aired TV and digital ads against GOP U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert in the final weeks before the Nov. 8 election.

Lewis also donated to Boebert’s Democratic opponent, former Aspen City Councilman Adam Frisch, as well as Bennet, Pettersen, Caraveo. 

He gave $4,400 to state level candidates and committees.

9. Ning Mosberger-Tang

Mosberger-Tang, of Boulder, was the first female developer at Google and now is a private investor, philanthropist and freelance photographer.

She gave nearly $685,000 to Democratic candidates and committees in 2022. That included $350,000 to the LCV Victory Fund. She also donated to Bennet, Neguse, Pettersen and Caraveo. 

At the state level, Mosberger-Tang donated nearly $197,000, with $100,000 going to the Conservation Colorado Victory Fund, and $85,000 more being donated to other super PACs supporting Democratic candidates.

10. Jeff Keller

Keller, the president of APC Construction, a Golden road construction company, gave nearly $585,000, with $525,000 to super PAC American Policy Fund, which supported O’Dea. Keller also gave $37,500 to the NRSC and $5,800 to O’Dea’s campaign. O’Dea owns Concrete Express, a Denver construction company.

The American Policy Fund supported O’Dea in the primary and general elections. Keller and other Colorado residents and companies donated 35% of the $10.2 million raised by the super PAC. It also received nearly $1.3 million from the Senate Leadership Fund in October.

How we did this analysis

The Sun downloaded all 2022 federal election donations from people in the state of Colorado from the Federal Election Commission, then sorted for the top 25 donors.

We removed donations to WinRed, ActBlue and joint fundraising committees, all of which act as conduits to pass along campaign cash to candidates or committees. This avoids duplication. A few other duplicate donations in the data also were removed.

The affiliations of candidate committees and PACs were identified using information from the FEC and OpenSecrets.

Finally, data on refunds to Coloradans was downloaded from the FEC and compared with contribution data. Refunded contributions were subtracted from donors’ final totals.

Click here to look at all the data.

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...