UPDATE: This story has been updated to report the latest campaign finance information for District 3 candidate Scott Hiller and mayoral candidate Andrew Dalby.
An influx of campaign donations in the April 4 city election were made by dark money groups. That’s according to reports filed on the last election cycle, which covers donations received and expenditures made from Feb. 25 to March 10, with reports due March 15.
Colorado Springs For Ethical Government, for example, reported bringing in $200,000 from Stand Against Monopolies LLC. The dark money group is campaigning against City Councilor Wayne Williams for mayor in the April 4 election. The group’s agent is Tom Bjorklund. We wrote about the group here. The committee spent $183,991 and has roughly $16,000 on hand.
Citizens for Responsible Leadership, another dark money group, reported receiving $100,000 from Defend Colorado of Centennial, which was set up in 2018. Spending by the committee is being handled by Republican political operative Daniel Cole. The committee has spent $77,196 so far.
The committee is supporting City Council candidates promoted in television ads by Mayor John Suthers, who also has endorsed Williams for mayor. Suthers’ choices in the at-large Council race are Brian Risley, David Leinweber and Lynette Crow-Iverson. In District 3, he favors Michelle Talarico.
In the ads, Suthers tells viewers, “These are serious responsible citizens.”
Cole is also running the show in another dark money group called Citizens Protecting Our Water, which is campaigning for Williams for mayor. Both groups use Cole’s business address on St. Vrain Street. The water committee raised $200,000, all from Defend Colorado, and spent $175,416.
David Jenkins, owner of Norwood Development Group, sent an email several weeks ago urging an undisclosed list of recipients to support Williams and his slate of Council picks (those endorsed by Suthers) and noting that dark money groups would be established to accept donations.
Yet another committee controlled by Cole is Citizens for Colorado Springs Outdoors, the “vote yes” committee backing the 20-year extension of the Trails, Open Space and Parks tax. It’s raised $97,925 so far — $59,400 in the last cycle — and spent $75,200.
Integrity Matters, a citizens-based activist group formed in February, raised $7,500 and spent $740.
All together, those committees reported raising $566,900 in the last cycle, most of it funneled through dark money groups.
Water is at the center of the election following City Council’s recent approval of a water ordinance that requires the city to have 128 percent of the water needed to serve the city and new annexations at the time of annexation. It also contains a requirement for annexation areas to have 25 percent of their borders contiguous to the city. Many plots of land developers want to annex into the city don’t qualify under the new rule. Thus, some have become involved in the mayor’s race, hoping a new mayor will lead a charge to change the ordinance.
The mayoral candidates, in comparison, collectively raised in the neighborhood of $192,000 in the last cycle with former El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark leading the way with $104,970 in new money.
That brings the total Clark has raised to $434,652. She’s spent $389,841 and has invested in television ads that cite rising crime, drugs and homelessness as problems she’s ready to tackle.
Among her biggest donors are property owners outside the city that could be proposed for annexation. Among them: The O’Neil Group, $100,000; banker Ron Johnson, $110,000; Norris Cattle Inc., $10,000; T-Cross Ranches, $10,000, and Doug and Courtney Quimby (La Plata Investments), $1,000.
Williams has raised $540,610 and spent $468,357. That makes him the biggest fundraiser, and he’s also benefitting from the dark money groups whose donors are shielded from public view. Of his total, $255,000 has come from Colorado Springs Forward political action committee.
Businessman and pastor Yemi Mobolade also is running television ads. He raised $38,969 the last cycle, bringing his total to $370,824. He’s spent $251,690.
El Paso County Commissioner Longinos Gonzalez Jr .has raised $197,692 (only $875 the last cycle) and spent $102,794. He gave about $160,000 to his campaign.
Businessman Andrew Dalby reported having raised $406,174 so far and spending $333,455. He gave his campaign $375,000 earlier.
John Tiegen has raised $20,050 and spent $12,830. Much of his money has come from out-of-state donors.
The other candidates reported nominal amounts. They are Darryl Glenn, Tom Strand, Christopher Mitchell, Jim Miller, Kallan Reece Rodebaugh and Lawrence Martinez.
In the Council races, as expected, those endorsed by Suthers are leading in campaign money.
Brian Risley: $49,666 raised; $38,068 spent.
David Leinweber: $42,770 raised; $26,802 spent.
Lynette Crow-Iverson: $46,767 raised; $40,430 spent.
Michelle Talarico: $37,474 raised; $11,879 spent.
Talarico’s opponent Scott Hiller has raised $6,135 so far and spent $2,278.
Glenn Carlson in the at-large race has raised $16,484 and spent $3,541.
Roland Rainey Jr. has raised $9,719 and spent $5,491.
The other candidates have raised lesser amounts. They are: Kat Gayle, Chineta Davis, Gordon Klingenschmitt, Jane Northrup Glenn, Jay Inman and Jaymen Johnson (who has raised no money).