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Fresh union money goes to Democrats

Nearly $133,000 in contributions from teachers’ union political committees flowed to the campaigns of Democratic legislative candidates in August, according to campaign finance reports filed Tuesday.

That’s on top of about $128,000 in contributions listed as of the previous reporting deadline on Aug. 1. The latest filings covered contributions made from July 27 through Aug. 29.

The new reports marked the entry of two new groups into the 2012 campaign – the AFT Colorado Federation of Teachers, School, Health and Public Employees Small Donor Committee and the DCTA Fund, a small donor committee associated with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association.

And the latest reports also contained the first union spending in a district tax proposal campaign. The Jefferson County Education Association Small Donor Committee reported a $10,000 donation to Citizens for Jeffco Schools, the primary backer of the proposed $99 million bond issue and $39 million operating funds increase that’s on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The Public Education Committee, the well-funded small donor committee associated with the Colorado Education Association, reported contributing $209,500 in the most recent period. Some $44,500 of that went to Democratic legislative candidates, with another $5,250 going to Democrats seeking seats on the State Board of Education and the University of Colorado Board of Regents.

A total of $155,000 went to three Democratic “independent expenditure” committees, groups that can support or oppose candidates but can’t coordinate with candidate committees. Those three groups are the Community Information Project, the Coalition for Colorado’s Future and the Colorado Accountable Government Alliance.

Inside the latest reports

Here are snapshots of the most recent contributions by union-affiliated political committees. Much of the money went to tight races in Jefferson County and elsewhere whose outcomes could determine which party controls the legislature in 2013-14.

In many cases the contributions are in addition to money given by union committees during earlier reporting periods.

AFT Small Donor Committee – The group give $6,000 to the Colorado Democratic Party and $2,000 each to the following candidates: Rep. Andy Kerr (Senate District 22), Sen. Linda Newell (District 26), Sen. Evie Hudak (District 28), Rep. Pete Lee (District 18), Rep. Daniel Kagan (District 3) and Dave Young (House District 50). Contributions of $1,000 each went to 11 other Democratic candidates, and donations of $500 or less to 31 others. (See a list here and the second part here.)

Public Education Committee – The group’s biggest donation was $4,500 to Emily Tracy, who is challenging GOP Rep. Randy Baumgardner in District 8, which sprawls across most of northwestern Colorado. Fourteen Democrats got contributions of $2,250, including Brittany Pettersen, who’s trying to hold central Lakewood’s District 28 seat for the Democrats, as well as Kerr, Newell, Lee and Kagan. Also receiving $2,250 was Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Summit County, a former superintendent who’s battling in the state’s only serious three-way race this year. Hudak got $2,000. The committee gave 13 other Democrats contributions of between $250 and $1,000 apiece. (See full list here.)

DCTA Fund – The committee gave $5,000 to the Colorado Democratic Party and $2,000 apiece to Kerr and Hudak, who are running in two of the tightest Senate races this year. Smaller contributions went to 12 other Democrats.

District Twelve Educators Association Political Action Committee – The group gave $500 each to 15 Democratic candidates, including Hudak. Because it’s a PAC, not a small donor committee, the group has lower contribution limits.

JCEA Small Donor Committee – In addition to the $10,000 for Jeffco’s proposed school bond and operating tax increases, the group gave $4,399 to Hudak and $2,000 to Pettersen.

Among smaller contributions, the Boulder Valley Education Association Small Donor Committee gave $1,000 each to Mike Foote, Lee Kemp and Rep. Matt Jones and $500 to Rep. Jonathan Singer, all running in Boulder County districts. The Pueblo County Teachers’ Association Small Donor Committee gave $500 each to House candidates Chuck Rodosevich and Leroy Garcia, both running in Pueblo County districts.

Lots of cash left in the bank

Education-related groups have plenty of money left in the bank for the rest of the campaign season.

Education News Colorado reviewed “ending balance” figures for 13 union-related political committees and came up with a total of $718,156. The largest individual amounts are the the DCTA Fund ($202,531), Public Education Committee ($197,734), the District Twelve Committee ($74,221), the JCEA committee ($72,201) and the St. Vrain Valley Education Association Small Donor Committee ($38,838). The AFT committee has $22,633 on hand.

The DCTA and the AFT may be considering non-candidate spending. A $466 million DPS bond issue and a $49 million operating increase are on the ballot in Denver this year. The district’s agreement with the union includes a raise for teachers if the operating increase is approved. And Douglas County is the AFT’s base in Colorado, with a conservative school board that is considering ballot measures to further diminish the union’s role in the district.

Another CEA-related group, Educators for Public Education, has $86,593 in the bank. As a “political committee,” it faces tighter limits on candidate contributions than small donor committees have.

Committees affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform and Stand for Children haven’t yet made legislative contributions but are expected to do so later. Stand recently endorsed candidates, and DFER plans to endorse later this month.

The next campaign finance reporting deadline is Sept. 17.

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