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DPS campaign giving tops $600,000

Updated Oct. 17 – Contributions to candidates in the Denver Public Schools board races have reached $600,117, according to reports filed with the Department of State. The filings are the first financial reports since the races heated up after Labor Day.

Nine candidates are vying for four seats on the seven-member board. The pace of fundraising by those candidates seems to be on a similar pace to that of 2011, when candidates in three DPS races raised more than $845,000.

The bulk of the money raised so far this year, about $480,000, has gone to the four candidates generally supportive of Superintendent Tom Boasberg and the majority of the current board. The lion’s share of those donations come from wealthy, influential education reform advocates in Colorado and across the country.

Three candidates who’ve been more critical of the administration have raised about $126,000 in cash and received some $122,000 in non-monetary contributions, primarily campaign services from teachers union groups.

The pro-administration slate includes former Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien running at-large, former Denver Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez in District 2, lawyer Mike Johnson in east Denver’s District 3 and Urban League executive Landri Taylor in northeast Denver’s District 4. Taylor currently serves on the board, having been appointed to fill a vacancy.

That group is opposed by software company manager Michael Kiley in the at-large race, community organizer Rosario C. de Baca in District 2, activist and school volunteer Meg Schomp in District 3 and water engineer Kilgore in District 4.

A third at-large candidate, former DPS paraprofessional Joan Poston, doesn’t fall into either camp.

The candidates have spent a total of about $432,000, much of it on printing, campaign flyers, other advertising, political consultants and staff.

Most candidates reported significant numbers of individual contributions, several hundred in some cases. The pro-administration candidates also reported major contributions from wealthy donors, both local and out of state. The opposition group has received significant funding and non-monetary services from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association Fund and from the Public Education Committee, a small-donor committee connected to the Colorado Education Association.

Here’s a look at what each candidate has raised:


  • Kiley – Raised $32,360 and spent $23,360. He also received $59,046 in non-monetary contributions from the DCTA Fund and the PEC for canvassing and staff.
  • O’Brien – Raised $173,324 and spent $125,048. Some small contributors of interest included former Gov. Dick Lamm and his wife Dottie, State Board of Education member Jane Goff, former First Lady Jeannie Ritter and former Gov. Roy Romer.
  • Poston – She doesn’t have a campaign committee and reported spending $212 of her own money on mileage.

District 2

  • C. de Baca – Raised $18,165 and spent $6,580. Received non-monetary contributions of $18,604.
  • Rodriguez – Raised $89,210 and spent $376. Among her contributions was $1,800 from the Stand for Children Political Committee.

District 3

  • Johnson – Raised $146,135 and spent $109,168.
  • Schomp – Raised $31,949 and spent $28,329. She also received $24,592 in non-monetary contributions from DCTA and PEC.

District 4

  • Taylor – Raised $72,105 and spent $57,425.
  • Kilgore – Raised $33,269 and spent $23,701. He also received $20,327 in non-monetary contributions from DCTA and PEC, including staff support and voter outreach.

The DCTA’s spending filings reported give the four candidates a total of $32,500 in cash contributions from April 1 through Sept. 30.

The donor lists for O’Brien, Rodriguez, Johnson and Taylor are a who’s who of Denver’s business, political, legal, non-profit and lobbying establishments. Here’s a look at the biggest contributors to the group. (Unless otherwise noted, the donors gave to all four candidates.)

  • Bruce Benson – The University of Colorado president and former oilman gave $35,000.
  • Denise O’Leary – The wife of DaVita CEO Kent Thiry contributed $33,000, and Thiry gave $8,000.
  • Sam Gary – The head of the Gary Community Investment Co. contributed $28,000.
  • Dan Ritchie – The head of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and former chancellor of the University of Denver gave $18,000.
  • Charles and Rebecca Ledley – The Boston couple gave a total of $16,500. He’s with a company named Highfields Capital. She used to work with the Philanthropy Roundtable.
  • Philip Anschutz – The Denver businessman and billionaire contributed $16,000.
  • John Freyer – The senior executive of Land Title Guarantee Co. gave $12,000.
  • David Younggren – A philanthropic executive, he contributed a total of $9,000 to O’Brien and Rodriguez. He’s vice president of Gary Community and president of the Piton Foundation.
  • Steven Halstedt – The Centennial Ventures executive gave $10,000.

Nine other businessmen gave between $5,000 and $10,000 to the four candidates, or combinations thereof. They included San Francisco financier Arthur Rock, Silicon Valley financier Greg Penner, Pat Hamill of Oakwood Homes, Scott Reiman of Hexagon Investments, former National Western Stock Show chief Pat Grant, oilman Ron Williams, John Fox of MarkWest Geophysics and Dave Goldberg, CEO of the Internet company Survey Monkey.

And Democratic U.S. Rep Jared Polis of Boulder split $4,000 in contributions among the four.

The next financial reports from school board candidates are due Nov. 1, just days before the Nov. 5 election, and final reports are due Dec. 5.

This article was updated Oct. 17 to change some totals because of C. de Baca’s late filing and correct some figures.

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