Mar 29, 2023 - Politics

Denver election dominated by big-money donors

Data: Denver Elections Division; Table: John Frank/Axios
Data: Denver Elections Division; Table: John Frank/Axios

Wealthy donors continue to dominate Denver's election, donating millions to super PACs in an effort to influence the April 4 vote.

Why it matters: The outside money is playing a large role, dwarfing campaign spending by mayor and city council candidates and elevating powerful special interests to the forefront.

State of play: About 25% of total donations came from just 10 donors this election cycle, an Axios Denver analysis of public finance reports shows.

Zoom in: Most of the big donors are helping boost Democrat Mike Johnston in the mayor's race through Advancing Denver, an independent political committee that spent more than $1.7 million to promote his candidacy.

  • The group's top donor is LinkedIn co-founder and Silicon Valley investor Reid Hoffman, who gave $780,000. Hoffman is a longtime Johnston supporter who also gave big to the candidate's failed 2018 campaign for governor.
  • Four other donors gave large sums: hedge fund manager Steve Mandel; former DaVita CEO Kent Thiry; investor Reuben Munger; and money manager Art Reimer.

Of note: The second largest donor in the mayor's race is Republican candidate Andy Rougeot, who contributed $754,000 to his own campaign.

  • Kelly Brough, another top contender for mayor, is getting a huge boost from the super PAC A Better Denver, which is backed by the national realtors association.
  • Leslie Herod is benefiting from $180,000 in contributions from Ready Denver, a dark-money organization that didn't disclose donors.

Between the lines: City taxpayers are the actual top contributor with $5.3 million allocated to dozens of candidates through what's called the Fair Elections Fund.

  • The public financing is intended to diminish the power of major donors, but it's not quite leveling the playing field.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Denver stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Denver.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more