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Story first appeared in The Unaffiliated

Four issue committees opposing Proposition HH, the 10-year property tax relief plan on the November ballot, raised nearly $1.2 million and had spent $307,000 through Aug. 30, according to campaign finance reports filed with the state. 

No on HH, the main committee fighting the measure, has raised and spent the most cash of any group working on the initiative, at about $1 million raised and $200,000 spent through last month.

Most of the committee’s money has come from two conservative dark-money political nonprofits. Advance Colorado Action and Defend Colorado each donated $500,000 to No on HH on Aug. 11. 

The Colorado Sun defines dark-money groups as political nonprofits that don’t disclose their donors. 

No on HH’s biggest expense in August was about $200,000 on advertising.

Property Tax Relief Now is the only group supporting the measure. It raised $745,000 and spent about $170,000 through last month.

Property Tax Relief Now received $250,000 from Gary Advocacy LLC and $100,000 from the National Education Association in August.  The group’s largest expense last month was $70,000 on media consulting. 

The committee previously received several large donations from a handful of liberal-leaning dark-money groups, including the Sixteen Thirty Fund. Boldly Forward Colorado, a nonprofit tied to Gov. Jared Polis, gave $50,000 to the committee, as did the Colorado Education Association, the state’s biggest teachers union.

The three other groups opposing Proposition HH are: 

  • Americans for Prosperity, a national dark-money political nonprofit, which spent nearly $98,000 last month on canvassing and radio and digital ads opposing Proposition HH via its Colorado issue committee
  • Taxpayers for a Better Deal and TABOR Coalition, each have raised less than $4,000

Preschool for All Coloradans, which supports Proposition II, the other statewide ballot measure on the Nov. 7 ballot, raised more than $215,000. No issue committee has registered to oppose Proposition II thus far.

The measure would let the state keep all of the money collected through the state’s increased nicotine and tobacco taxes and use the dollars to fund preschool access.

Denver school board candidates raising big bucks

Also on the ballot in November will be school board contests. And for the first time in Colorado, under a bill passed by the legislature in 2022, individual contributions to school board candidates are limited to $2,500, preventing the unfettered fundraising seen two years ago.

Still, more than 100 candidates running for school board positions in 32 districts had raised more than $922,000 through Aug. 30. 

Candidates for the Denver Public Schools board are leading the fundraising pack, accounting for 24% of that money, followed by candidates on school boards in Douglas County, Boulder Valley, Woodland Park and Cherry Creek.

Much of the Denver cash, more than $151,000, has been aimed at an open, at-large seat on the Denver Public Schools board. But the top fundraiser in that contest, education researcher Ulcca Joshi Hansen, dropped out of the race at the end of August

Though she’d raised nearly $52,000 through Aug. 30, Hansen said she feared outside spending by super PACs would decide the race and she didn’t expect such support from those groups.

Other Denver at-large candidates and their fundraising amounts:

  • John Youngquist, a former East High School principal, has raised nearly $50,000
  • Kwame Spearman, former Tattered Cover CEO and Denver mayoral candidate, has raised more than $36,000
  • Paul Ballenger, a security consultant, has raised nearly $14,000

The top school board candidate fundraiser thus far is Kimberlee Sia, who has raised more than $53,000. She’s challenging DPS incumbent Board Member Scott Baldermann for the District 1 seat in southeastern Denver. He’s raised only about $1,400.

Anne Egan, an incumbent member of the Cherry Creek School District board, had raised more than $34,000 for her reelection campaign through last month, though $13,000 of that she donated to her campaign.

Although several independent spending committees have been formed with the goal of influencing the outcome of school board contests, none have reported significant fundraising or spending yet.

Check out #FollowtheMoneyCO, which includes 2023 fundraising and spending by issue committees, super PACs and school board candidates. Email Fish if you have questions/suggestions.

Special to The Colorado Sun
Twitter: @fishnette