The Colorado GOP is charging Republican presidential candidates as much as $40,000 to appear on the state’s 2024 primary ballot, a fee that comes as the party has struggled to raise funds this year under new leadership.
Democratic and Republican parties in other states also force presidential candidates to pony up to be included on their primary ballots, but such a fee doesn’t appear to have been imposed in Colorado in at least a decade.
Colorado law requires state parties to approve candidates seeking to be on their presidential primary ballots. The Colorado GOP in August adopted “presidential candidate qualification rules” that require presidential candidates to do one of the following to appear on the state’s March 5 primary ballot:
- Pay the party $40,000
- Pay the party $20,000 and visit the state once
- Host a fundraiser for the Colorado GOP “in any state or location during a date and time, and venue, mutually agreed to by the campaign and state party for a nonrefundable discounted rate of $20,000.00.”
Presidential campaigns must also post on X, formerly known as Twitter, and another social media platform “their excitement to be on the Colorado ballot.” The posts must tag the Colorado GOP’s username and “directly encourage their followers to follow the party’s social media accounts for updates about the party primary and events.”
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“Colorado Republicans have an interest in making sure nonserious candidates don’t crowd the primary ballot,” Colorado GOP Chairman Dave Williams told The Colorado Sun in a text message. “These rules are in line with many other state parties across the country and serve to further professionalize our operations.”
Two Republican presidential campaigns paid the Colorado GOP “ballot access fees” in September totaling $60,000. That money made up the majority of the nearly $87,000 the party raised last month.
The ballot access fee was first reported Tuesday in The Unaffiliated, The Sun’s politics and policy newsletter.
Some GOP candidates may be waiting to pay the fee until they know if their campaigns will still be viable by the time Colorado holds its presidential primary.
Dec. 11 is the final date a presidential primary candidate can file a petition to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office to be on the March 5 ballot.
Trump’s campaign has paid 2024 ballot access fees to six other state Republican parties, including in Idaho, South Carolina and Massachusetts, and the Republican Party in the Virgin Islands, while Burgum’s campaign paid the fee to the Republican Party in the Virgin Islands.
The Idaho Republican Party charges presidential candidates a $50,000 ballot access fee to participate in their caucus, half of which can be refunded if a candidate holds at least one public campaign event in the state. Trump’s campaign also paid a $50,000 ballot access fee to the Republican Party in South Carolina, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The Colorado Democratic Party doesn’t charge presidential candidates a ballot access fee.
“We can fundraise without shaking people down,” Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Shad Murib said in a text message.
But Democratic parties in other states charge ballot access fees, including North Dakota, which told The Sun that it charges presidential candidates $2,500 to appear on their primary ballot.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s 2020 presidential campaign paid the South Carolina Democratic Party a $20,000 ballot access fee. The Colorado Democrat’s unsuccessful campaign also paid the Democratic parties in Wyoming and Nevada $2,500 each for ballot access.
The last time The Colorado Sun found ballot access fees being imposed on presidential candidates by a political party in Colorado was in the 2012 election cycle, when several Republican candidates paid the Colorado GOP $5,000 to participate in the caucus process that year.
For the 2020 presidential election, Colorado switched to using primaries.
Monthly fundraising details
The Colorado GOP spent nearly $19,000 in September, with nearly $3,900 going to The Rainmakers, a Florida-based fundraising firm. The firm was used in 2022 by Williams, who lost in the primary election to U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, and by former state Rep. Ron Hanks who lost the GOP U.S. Senate primary to Joe O’Dea.
The party hasn’t paid any staff since Williams, who up until recently was being paid to work as an aide to a Republican state representative, took over the party.
The Colorado Democratic Party, by comparison, raised nearly $408,000 in September, with $370,000 of that coming from a joint fundraising committee with President Joe Biden’s campaign. Much of the joint fundraising money came from out-of-state donors. Californians accounted for 40% of all the money the party raised in September.
The Democratic National Committee also gave the state party access to voter registration files valued at more than $2,900. Several city and school board candidates paid the state party more than $7,200 for voter file access.
The Colorado Democratic Party spent nearly $413,000 in September, with the party’s top expense a nearly $353,000 donation to the Democratic National Committee.
Participating in joint fundraising committees, where donors may write a single check to be divided among multiple candidate and party committees is common. Presidential committees have used it in the past to move money around, with state parties often transferring the money to the national party.