Records show Democrats outspending Republicans regionally, but dark money remains hidden | VailDaily.com

Records show Democrats outspending Republicans regionally, but dark money remains hidden

Nicki Mills, left, told the crowd at a candidate forum that more than 60 percent of Democrat Dylan Robert's campaign contributions came from outside Eagle and Routt counties, which they're battling to represent in the Colorado State House of Representatives. The next day Roberts accused Mills of "going negative" and asked for more campaign contributions in an email blast.

EAGLE — Democrats are raising more campaign money than Republicans nationwide and regionally for this election cycle.

Across the country, data analyzed by OpenSecrets.org's Center for Responsive Politics show that 2018 congressional campaigns will be the most expensive in American history. By Election Day, the total could top $2 billion.

Sheila Krumholz, executive director for the Center for Responsive Politics, told United Press International that candidates historically raise 40 percent of their total funds in their campaigns' final months — which would be now.

And as anyone who has tried to watch a Major League Baseball playoff game can attest, much of that money buys TV ads, according to the Wesleyan Media Project.

Through August, campaigns spent more than $375 million on more than 1 million ads in congressional and governor races since this election cycle began Jan. 1, 2017, more than double the midterm election four years ago. Candidates started earlier, and there have been more of them, especially Democrats, said Travis Ridout, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

House District 26

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Democrat Dylan Roberts has already raised more than $78,296.09, compared to $13,717.08 for Nicki Mills, his Republican opponent for Colorado House District 26, Eagle and Routt counties, according to Colorado Secretary of State records.

In a forum at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards Thursday evening, Oct. 11, Mills asserted that more than 60 percent of Roberts' campaign contributions come from outside Eagle and Routt counties.

Mills mentioned the attorneys' contributions to Roberts' campaign when answering a question about health care costs in the region and litigation's part in those skyrocketing costs. Among Roberts' contributors are Denver attorneys Frank Azar and Michael Sawaya, according to Colorado Secretary of State campaign records.

"If you want to know where a politician really stands on issues, take a look at who is funding their campaigns," Mills said.

While knocking on doors in Gypsum, Roberts defended the contributions to his campaign.

"I am proud of the broad coalition from across the district and the state who are supporting me," Roberts said.

Roberts also returned fire about campaign contributions and their influence. Colorado legislative races cap contributions at $400 per individual: $200 for the primary and $200 for the general election.

"People cannot buy influence for $400, at least not for me," Roberts said.

Money doesn't mean everything, Roberts said.

"I represent a large geographic district. I have to meet voters where they are. Modern campaigns require resources to speak to as many voters as possible across many platforms," he said.

Senate District 5

To the naked eye, it would appear that Democratic incumbent Kerry Donovan's $188,943.98 in campaign fundraising is more than 10 times what has been contributed to her Republican opponent, two-time Delta County commissioner Olen Lund's $15,630.99. They're vying to represent the seven-county Senate District 5 in west central Colorado.

However, in Thursday's candidate forum, Donovan insisted that campaign funding numbers do not tell the entire story, saying that "dark money" is funding at least some of the attacks thrown at her during the campaign.

Dark money groups are also responsible for attacks on Lund, Republicans said.

In U.S. politics, dark money is money given to nonprofit organizations, including social welfare groups (501(c)(4)), unions (501(c)(5)) and trade association groups (501(c)(6)) that can receive unlimited donations from corporations, individuals and unions. Under current election law, dark money groups are not required to disclose their donors.

Some dark money groups, though, keep a higher profile than others.

Conservation Colorado is funded by California billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, who made his money through the green energy industry.

At the other end of the political spectrum, Americans for Prosperity is funded by the Koch Brothers.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

How to follow the money

To follow the money yourself, go to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Tracer website and put in the candidate’s last name or candidate ID number.