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Issue committee attracts national money to Denver board race

The four candidates for Denver school board who broadly support the district administration’s accountability-based school reform efforts have been out-fundraising their opponents at a rate of three to one — but they’re also getting a boost from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Denver businessman and billionaire Philip Anschutz in the form of donations to the expenditure committee Great Schools Denver.

Nine donors gave the group, which registered as an independent expenditure committee in June, a total of $205,000, according to filings submitted to the Secretary of State’s office on Friday. Bloomberg donated $75,000 and Anschutz gave $9,000.

The largest single donor to Great Schools Denver was the advocacy committee of the group Education Reform Now, which is affiliated with Democrats for Education reform and which also has a local committee. The organization contributed $90,000 of Great School Denver’s reported contributions.

Oakwood Homes, which is led by Pat Hamill, and Kent Thiry, chief executive officer of DaVita, each contributed $15,000. And John Fox of MarkWest Energy Partners donated $1,000.

Anschutz, Thiry and Hamill have already donated to individual candidates in the campaign. Friday’s campaign disclosures revealed that Hamill donated a combined $18,000 to southwest Denver candidate Rosemary Rodriguez, central Denver candidate Michael Johnson and northeast Denver candidate Landri Taylor. Anschutz contributed $16,000 in the first campaign finance reporting cycle to those three candidates, plus at-large candidate Barbara O’Brien. Thiry gave the candidates $8,000, while his wife Denise O’Leary contributed $33,000.

And Bloomberg made Colorado headlines earlier in the week when his philanthropy gave more than $1 million to the campaign to pass the education tax measure Amendment 66.

The largest single recipient of the group’s expenditures, which total $161,709 so far, was the political consulting group OnSight Public Affairs. OnSight is also working with the campaign to pass Amendment 66.