Steyer Doubles Down On Democrats In Colorado
A Western Wire review of campaign finance records shows that California billionaire and prominent Democratic activist and donor Tom Steyer has upped his support for candidates up and down the ticket in the Centennial state.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s Transparency in Contribution and Expenditure Reporting (TRACER) system shows that Steyer gave U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, a $100 donation, Polis’s self-imposed limit for donations. Polis is largely self-funding, having contributed more than $18 million of his own money to push his campaign.
But Steyer maxed out at $1,150 for each of two statewide candidates—Jena Griswold, who is running for Secretary of State, and Phil Weiser, Democratic candidate for Colorado Attorney General.
State attorneys general have become a top-tier target for the prolific donor, who has poured money directly into races in Arizona, Florida, and Wisconsin.
“For a professor who has taken in nearly one half million dollars from outside of our state—the most by an Attorney General candidate in Colorado history—accepting a maximum contribution from an extreme anti-energy radical liberal is no surprise. It is concerning nonetheless. Coloradans expect and deserve a champion for our home who isn’t paying for their campaign with money that isn’t from Colorado,” Republican George Brauchler’s campaign responded in an email to Western Wire. Brauchler is running against Weiser for Colorado’s open Attorney General seat.
Documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation show Steyer’s involvement with campaigns against ExxonMobil, and a slew of new Democratic AGs could embolden others in the West, like New Mexico’s Hector Balderas, who is seeking reelection this cycle. Emails obtained from the New York Attorney General’s office suggest that former attorney general Eric Schneiderman attempted to solicit donations from Steyer on the basis of his investigation of ExxonMobil.
Steyer’s interest in Colorado could also mean more climate lawsuits like the one filed against ExxonMobil and Suncor by the City of Boulder and Boulder and San Miguel counties in Colorado. A leaked memo from Steyer’s team established a strategy to “[e]ngage with city attorneys” to “open investigations of Exxon,” and asked if “[f]unding [is] needed to develop case??”
For the reporting period ending August 30, Steyer gave the maximum $400 allowed to State Senate candidate Jessie Danielson, building on his earlier donations to five Colorado candidates, all Democrats, running for the state legislature. Danielson’s district, SD 20, covers Denver’s western suburbs in Jefferson County, a critical area for statewide races as well.
In those other races, Steyer’s picks coincide with key competitive districts in battleground counties.
Steyer gave $400, the state maximum per individual, on December 20, 2017 to incumbent State Rep. Tony Exum (HD-17), who holds a competitive seat in El Paso County. State Rep. Barbara McLachlan (HD-59) in southwest Colorado, and State Rep. Jeff Bridges (HD-3) in Denver’s southern suburbs also received backing, with Steyer’s wife, Kathryn, also donating a matching $400 to Exum.
With his donation to Danielson, Steyer is weighing in more closely on critical Senate races. Republicans currently hold a slim 18-to-16 seat margin in the state’s upper house. Danielson is running for the remaining seat currently held by State Sen. Cheri Jahn, a term-limited former Democrat who switched to unaffiliated before the 2018 legislative term. She faces Christine Jensen, a Republican.
Steyer has also set his sights on two highly competitive districts in Denver’s northern and southwest suburbs. Republican State Sen. Beth Martinez-Humenik faces State Rep. Faith Winter.
Republican State Sen. Tim Neville faces Tammy Story, who has the endorsement of U.S. Representatives Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) and Polis.
Both Martinez-Humenik and Neville have publicly opposed the 2,500-foot setback measure on November’s ballot known as Proposition 112 (formerly Initiative 97). Polis has opposed the issue, saying it “would all but ban fracking in Colorado.”
Conservation Colorado has also not taken a position on the measure, which would put more than 85 percent of the state’s non-federal lands off-limits to new oil and gas development, according to a report from the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission.
Steyer’s Colorado plays include propping up a La Plata County commissioner who faced a recall effort earlier this year. His political action committee, NextGen Climate Action, gave nearly $300,000 in 2016 to Conservation Colorado directly, with hundreds of thousands more from the League of Conservation Voters, Conservation’s parent group that same cycle. Using the group’s Steyer-backed infrastructure, Conservation Colorado employees set up an issue committee and acted as the registered agent for a group opposing the recall of Gwen Lachelt, the embattled county commissioner, TRACER results showed.