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Pro-66 campaign surpasses $10 million in contributions

Bill and Melinda Gates, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a charity founded by Steve Jobs’ widow are among major new donors to Colorado Commits to Kids, the campaign committee that’s pushing to pass Amendment 66.

The committee reported $2.5 million in donations during the last two weeks. The Monday filing with the Department of State was the last one required before the Nov. 5 election.

Bloomberg Philanthropies gave $1.05 million while the Gates contributed $1 million of their own funds, not from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a major donor to education reform causes.

The Emerson Collective, a California charity founded by Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs, gave $100,000.

Earlier this year Bloomberg gave $350,000 to a committee that supported Democratic state Sens. John Morse of Colorado Springs and Angela Giron of Pueblo in recall elections that they both lost. Conservative commentators criticized that contribution, and Bloomberg’s A66 gift was prompting critical comments on Twitter Monday afternoon.

In a statement provided by Colorado Commits, Gov. John Hickenlooper said, ““Our deep thanks go to Bill and Melinda Gates, Mayor Bloomberg and all of our Colorado donors for supporting Amendment 66. It is a testament to the breadth and depth of our reforms that Colorado has attracted the attention of business leaders across the country.”

Colorado Commits reported spending $4.9 million during the Oct. 10-23 reporting period, $3.1 million of that on advertising. That’s brings total campaign spending to $9.4 million.

Here are other major recent contributors to the campaign:

  • Reuben Munger of Boulder venture capital company Vision Ridge Partners – $200,000
  • Liberty Global, an international cable company headquartered in Colorado and headed by John Malone – $100,000
  • American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – $50,000
  • James Crowe of J.Q. Crowe Co in Englewood and a former Level 3 executive – $25,000
    Pat Hamill, CEO of Oakwood Homes – $15,000

Major contributors in prior reporting periods included the National Education Association and the Colorado Education Association ($2 million each) and Pat Stryker, a prominent Fort Collins philanthropist and Democratic Party funder, who’s given $825,000.

Other big expenditures in the last two weeks included an additional $1.1 million to FieldWorks, the company running the campaign’s canvassing efforts; $487,392 to TBWB Strategies, a San Francisco consultant that specializes in ballot measures, and $149,087 to Chism Strategies, another consulting company.

Coloradans for Real Education Reform, the main A66 opposition committee, reported raising a total of $24,400 across the entire campaign period. Virtually all of that has come from the Independence Institute, the libertarian/conservative think tank. The group has spent $19,352, mostly on political consultants.

The group’s primary campaign gambit was un unsuccessful legal challenge to some of the petitions that put A66 on the ballot. The spending report listed no legal expenses.

Another underfunded opposition group, Kids Before Unions, on Monday reported raising a total of $11,642 and spending $8,907.

Other players in the A66 campaign

Four other committees have reported raising a total of more than $136,000 in the effort to pass A66.

The Bell Action Issue Committee has raised $16,100, primarily from a related organization, and spent $14,377, mostly to reimburse salaries of Bell Policy Center employees who work on the campaign.

The Great Education Colorado Action Committee, an affiliate of the advocacy group Great Education Colorado, has raised $35,000 and spent $24,657. Its also received $24,657 in non-monetary contributions.

Greeley Commits to Kids has raised $33,841 and spent $17,912, most of it on advertising in Greeley.

The Stand for Children Issue Committee has raised $51,950 (almost all of it in prior reporting periods) and donated $50,000 to Colorado Commits.

There’s also been under-the-radar advertising spending on both sides of the A66 debate.

The Independence Institute, the conservative/libertarian thank tank, has been running television ads through another non-profit, Kids Are First. The ads don’t mention A66, the election or voting but rather argue a general theme of “Raise expectations, not taxes.”

The group’s website claims it has raised $734,350.

On the other side of the A66 debate, the Colorado Children’s Campaign and the Public Education & Business Coalition have been running ads with the general theme of improving schools and restoring education to what it used to be. Again, there’s no direct mention of A66, the election or voting.

Chris Watney, Children’s Campaign chief, has declined to tell EdNews how much is being spent on those ads.

As non-profits those groups don’t have to register with the Department of State and report spending because they aren’t expressly advocating for how to vote in the election.

A66 would increase state income taxes by a total of $950 million in the first year to fund a significant overhaul of the state’s school finance system, with an emphasis on funding for preschool and full-day kindergarten and on increased funding for at-risk students and English-language learners. (See this EdNews backgrounder for all the details.)

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