Pro-reform group spends big on 2015 campaign

A committee affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform has spent nearly $90,000 on campaign materials for two Denver school board candidates.

The group, Raising Colorado, spent $87,667 with two East Coast advertising agencies to produce campaign materials, according to campaign finance records filed late this week.

Jen Walmer, registered agent for the committee and state director of DFER, detailed the spending this way:

  • $14,277 was paid to Greenlight Media of New York to produce and send a mailer for board candidate Lisa Flores in   northwest Denver’s District 5.
  • $51,685 was paid to Three Point Media of Washington, D.C., for support of Flores. Another $21,705 was spent on digital ads supporting candidate Anne Rowe in southeast Denver’s district 1.

Raising Colorado also spent $397 with High Line Communications of Littleton to provide web design support for Flores, Rowe and board president Allegra “Happy” Haynes, Walmer said.

All the money raised by the group this year — $250,000 – has come from New York-based Education Reform Advocacy, a DFER-related political group that manages contributions raised by local groups and redistributes it to those groups.

The amount spent by Raising Colorado lags the nearly $95,000 donated to three other candidates by two teachers union groups. (See this story for details on DPS campaign donations, and use our database to find contributors to individual candidates.)

The money spent by Raising Colorado also is less than the combined total of about $114,000 raised by Flores and Rowe for their own campaign committees.

Raising Colorado is classified in state law as an independent expenditure committee, which it means it can’t donate directly to candidates, other committees or political parties. Independent committees also are prohibited from coordinating their efforts with candidates’ campaigns. Independent committees may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. All ads, flyers and other materials must include a “paid for by” disclosure listing the committee’s name.

The two union committees involved in the DPS board races, the DCTA Fund and the Public Education Committee, are classified as small donor committees, which are allowed to contribute directly to candidates but don’t have to disclose their donors. Such committees typically are funded by dues deductions from members.

The Raising Colorado report, filed Thursday, details activity between July 1 and Sept. 30. The group spent a total of $89,669, including small miscellaneous amounts spent in addition to the money spent with the ad agencies. The committee is sitting on an unspent war chest of $161,972.

Asked how that balance will be spent, Walmer said, “It’s not just in Denver” but declined to be more specific.

“I don’t know yet,” she said.

Since Raising Colorado first registered with the secretary of state in June 2014, it has raised $765,020 and spent $603,047 in various races over the last two election cycles.

The group spent more then $200,000 to back one successful and one losing Democratic candidate in November 2014 State Board of Education races. Raising Colorado also spent money to oppose GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez and supported some Democratic legislative candidates. The group also spent more than $47,000 supporting another unsuccessful Democratic state board candidate during the primary election earlier in 2014.

Two other DFER-related committees also are registered in Colorado.

The Democrats for Education Reform Political Committee reported income of $2,047 and spending of $461. Of that, $400 was contributed to Dan Jorgensen, a candidate for the Aurora school board.

The Democrats for Education Reform Small Donor Committee reported income of $1,101 and spending of $213. No contributions were given to candidates.

The BSSC Independent Expenditure Committee, which is affiliated with Stand for Children, has been active in past elections but not so far this year. The committee reported income of $1,196 and no spending in a report filed this week. Over the past four election cycles BSSC has raised $282,550 and spent $281,353.