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Colorado Commits tops $3 million in fundraising

Colorado Commits to Kids, the main campaign committee supporting Amendment 66, listed total contributions of $3.2 million in a report filed with the state Monday.

That total included $1.6 million raised since the previous report on Sept. 3. The committee reported spending $402,546 in the last two weeks.

The campaign’s news release quoted both Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan in touting the new contributions.

“When we were approved for the ballot two weeks ago we promised to spend the next two months building our coalition and making the case to voters on why we should get behind Amendment 66,” Hickenlooper said in the statement. “The overwhelming financial support we’ve received in the last 14 days is a testament to donors’ belief that the reforms Amendment 66 will fund are targeted specifically to efforts to improve our classrooms and to making Colorado the number-one state in the nation for P-12 education.”

“If the voters pass Amendment 66, Colorado will become the educational model for every other state to follow,” Duncan said.

Amendment 66 would raise state income tax rates to generate an estimated $950 million in the first year to fund P-12 education. The revenue would be used to implement Senate Bill 13-213, which creates a new formula for allocating education funding, including increased spending on preschool and full-day kindergarten and more money for at-risk students and English language learners. (Get more details in the EdNews archive of stories about Amendment 66.)

Most of the funds raised in the last two weeks came from four contributors:

  • Ben Walton, a Denver architect and board member of the Walton Family Foundation, gave $500,000.
  • The Gary Community Investment Co. of Denver gave $500,000 on top of the $200,000 it contributed previously.
  • Education Reform Now gave $250,000. While the group is a national organization, it has a Colorado chapter and is closely affiliated with the local chapter of Democrats for Education Reform. Jen Walmer, DFER state director, had the final say on the contribution, according to spokeswoman Alicia Economos.
  • Fort Collins philanthropist Pat Stryker gave $250,000. A longtime funder of Democratic candidates and liberal causes, she previously gave $400,000.

Other contributors of note in the most recent period include:

  • DaVita Corp., the dialysis company, $100,000
  • James Kelley of Vestar Capital Partners, $10,000
  • Ken Gart of the Gart Companies, $5,000
  • David Youngren, president the Piton Foundation, $5,000

The Colorado Education Association has given $450,000 to the campaign during previous reporting periods.

Major spending items in the latest period included $24,000 to the Denver political consulting firm OnSight Public Affairs. FieldWorks, a Washington-based campaign group, was paid $283,798, bringing its total payments to about $1 million. The company ran the petition-circulating campaign for Colorado Commits and now reportedly is organizing door-to-door canvassers for the campaign.

Colorado Commits also reported paying more than $56,000 to 20 people for “employee services.”

Among names of note on the payroll are Andrew Freedman, former chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, paid $6,012; top Hickenlooper aide Jamie Van Leeuwen, paid $4,879 for part-time campaign work while continuing to work part-time for the governor, and Colorado Association of School Executives lobbyist Elisabeth Rosen, paid $2,670.

Two aides to Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, also are working for the campaign. Damion LeeNatali was paid $4,636, and Will Gohl received $4,431. Johnston was the author of SB 13-213 and is constantly on the road campaigning for Amendment 66.

One of the registered opposition groups, Coloradans for Real Education Reform, reported total receipts of $10,000 and spending of $360. The sole donor was the Independence Institute, the conservative think tank and advocacy group.

The contribution and spending report for another opposition group, Coloradans Against Unions Using Kids as Pawns, hadn’t been filed as of early Monday evening. As of Sept. 3 that group had reported receipts of $7,200. Such reports are filed electronically, and committees have until midnight on deadline days to submit their documents.

Those two groups and Colorado Commits are organized as “issue” committees, meaning they have to file reports every two weeks leading up to the Nov. 5 election.

There’s been speculation in the political world that other types of committees, such as 527s, independent expenditure committees and others, may become involved in the Amendment 66 campaign. Independent expenditure and 527 committees have only one reporting deadline before the election, on Oct. 15, the same day that the first mail ballots are expected to go out to voters.

This article was updated on Sept. 19 to provide additional information about the Education Reform Now contribution.

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