Campaign financeElection 2018News

Get ready for a lot more advertising from the oil and gas industry on ballot measures

Author: Marianne Goodland - September 5, 2018 - Updated: September 24, 2018

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While there’s been plenty of angst about the amount of money going into the governor’s race (currently at $21.3 million and counting, just for the candidates) campaign finance reports released Tuesday show that it’s likely to be dwarfed by what the oil and gas is already pouring into committees that will do its bidding on ballot measures for November. The campaign finance reports come from the Secretary of State’s campaign finance filing system, TRACER, and cover the period of July 28 through Aug. 29.

Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence, or Protect Colorado for short, has already raised $21.1 million as it prepares to fight initiative #97, the statutory ballot proposal that would set up a 2,5000-foot barrier between occupied buildings and oil and gas development, and in support for initiative #108, which would require governments to compensate private property owners when those governments pass regulations that reduce the value of that property.

The committee raised a whopping $8 million in July alone. The two initiatives qualified for the ballot in August.

The biggest donors in July:

  • Noble Energy, at $1.882 million. The company has contributed a total of $4.452 million in this election cycle.
  • PDC Energy, at $1.506 million, bringing total contributions to $3.384 million;
  • Anadarko Petroleum, at $1.381 million, for a total of $5.833 million;
  • SRC Energy of Denver, with a donation of $1,092,235, bringing their total to $1,882,795;
  • DCP Midstream, a donation in July of $1 million;
  • Hall Energy Services of Houston gave $400,000 in July;
  • Whiting Oil & Gas contributed $288,610, bringing their contribution total to $566,860; and
  • Liberty Oilfield Services donated $126,455, for a total of $641,215.

If past experience is any guide, Protect Colorado will collect the money and then distribute it to independent expenditure committees that do the actual TV and radio ads, mailers, etc.

The committee shelled out $4.87 million in July to PacWest Communications for advertising, including a $24,000 in-kind contribution to PacWest on behalf of Committee for Colorado’s Shared Heritage, which is likely to be the industry’s public face of support for initiative 108, along with Colorado Farm Bureau.

The other initiative on the oil and gas industry’s radar — initiative #97, which would set up a 2,500-foot setback between new oil and gas development and occupied buildings — is already a target for negative advertising. The committee working to support the measure, Colorado Rising for Health and Safety, has to date raised $697,848 in cash and in-kind donations, spending about $657,000 to petition companies, including $384,981 to Direct Action Partners, which absconded with some of the group’s petitions. The petition company’s employees also claimed they hadn’t gotten paid for their work.

Another committee that will be working on behalf of a ballot measure — initiative #153, which would raise income taxes to pay for transportation bonds — is Coloradans for Coloradans. The committee has so far raised $4,249,351, including $2.261 million in July.

Its biggest donors:

  • The Colorado Construction Industry, at $1.6 million, all of it in July;
  • Associated General Contractors of Colorado, at $100,000, also in July.

The other transportation measure, initiative #167, aka Fix Our Damn Roads, would solicit bonds for transportation funding using current state revenues. Its dark-money committee with the same name is solely funded by the Independence Institute, which doesn’t divulge its donors. The committee has so far raised $$428,339 in cash and in-kind contributions. It spent $2.33 million in July, with $2 million going to Bluewest Media for advertising. Both qualified for the ballot in August.

Another $118,000 went to petition company Fieldworks, which has had a pretty good 2018. The company was paid $1.013 million by Coloradans for Coloradans for petition services, another $1.274 million by Coloradans to Stop Predatory Loans, which backs initiative #126. That measure, which also qualified in August, would cap fees and interest on payday loans at 36 percent annually.

The anti-predatory loan committee has taken in a total of $1.57 million, including $226,437 in July. Its biggest funder is the Sixteen Thirty Fund of Washington, D.C., a 501(c4) that gave $220,000 in July, for a grand total so far of $1.561 million. The fund is a dark-money group that does not disclose its donors.

Amendment #73’s independent expenditure committee, Great Schools Thriving Communities, has so far raised $593,544, including $207,376 in July. Its largest donors:

  • Philanthropist Judi Wagner of Littleton, who gave $100,000;
  • Stand for Children, which gave $39,507 for a total of $94,507. The 501(c)4 group doesn’t disclose its donors.
  • Colorado Education Association committees donated $20,000 in July, bringing their total $120,420.

The committee has so far spent $313,000, mostly on voter outreach.

The initiative would raise income taxes on those with incomes about $150,000; the money, projected at $1.6 billion, would go to public education.

The last of the ballot measures, initiative #173, which is on campaign finance, qualified for the ballot just yesterday. Its committee, Stop Buying Our Elections, did not report any contributions or expenditures in its Sept. 4 filing although the committee registered nearly a month ago. It’s still unknown who’s backing the measure other than its named proponents, former state Rep. BJ Nikkel of Loveland and former state Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray.

The next report deadline is September 17 for the period August 30 through September 12.


Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland

Marianne Goodland is the chief legislative reporter for Colorado Politics. She's covered the Colorado General Assembly for 20 years, starting off in 1998 with the Silver & Gold Record, the editorially-independent newspaper at CU that was shuttered in 2009. She also writes for six rural newspapers in northeastern Colorado. Marianne specializes in rural issues, agriculture, water and, during election season, campaign finance. In her free time (ha!) she lives in Lakewood with her husband, Jeff; a cantankerous Shih-Tzu named Sophie; and Gunther the cat. She is also an award-winning professional harpist.