The Colorado Accountable Government Alliance (CAGA) has accounted for a surge of liberal financial, organizational, and strategic support as the November elections approach, a Media Trackers investigation of campaign finance data reveals. Since October 11, the Tim Gill-backed Democratic political committee has channeled money into twenty-one different state level legislative races throughout Colorado.
CAGA dollars currently flood local campaigns, with the organization spending over $100,000 against several individual candidates within the last two weeks according to campaign filings with the Secretary of State. This is often more than the candidates’ own campaigns have raised over the entirety of the election cycle.
A recent Media Trackers report showed CAGA as a political “527” averaging only $20,000 in expenditures per month since its creation in December of 2010. Last month, however, CAGA’s expenditures increased exponentially to nearly $1.8 million in campaign activity and operational costs.
CAGA’s ability to increase its operations nearly a hundredfold can likely be attributed to Tim Gill’s nationwide political network. Last month alone, CAGA received $705,650 in donations from across the country. $150,000 came directly from Tim Gill, and another $150,000 came from America Votes, a liberal GOTV operation in Washington, D.C. and former partner of now-defunct ACORN.
Other out-of-state funding pouring into local Colorado races through CAGA included a $45,000 check from a New York educational advocacy group.
In just the first ten days of October, CAGA reported $346,000 in contributions while spending $426,000. According to the most recent campaign filing posted on October 15, CAGA received a $100,000 donation from the American Federation of Teachers in Washington, D.C., $50,000 from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in Colorado, and a variety of donations from other labor unions and environmental organizations.
CAGA’s September expenditures were spent entirely on consulting, professional services, and large donations to the group’s Independent Expenditure (IE) committee. Forty-six percent of total expense receipts, or $818,000, went to seven different political consultants and direct mail firms.
The top outlet used by CAGA in September was Denver-based Media Strategies and Research which was paid $459,150 for opposition advertising. Gumbinner & Davies, a Washington D.C. consulting firm, was number two, billing $343,632 to CAGA last month.
The remainder of CAGA’s September expenses – $881,000 – went directly to the group’s IE Committee.
CAGA’s IE Committee was created by Julie Wells on August 3. In its less than three month existence, the CAGA IE Committee has managed to spend in excess of $1,216,000 from a total of $1,240,000 contributed. Seven independent expenditures were reported and filed with the Secretary of State, all of them within the last two weeks.
The earliest IE notice appeared on October 11 and included twenty-five different payments, all to Gumbinner & Davies, a Washington, D.C. direct-mail consulting firm. The payments from CAGA to Gumbinner & Davies totaled $238,852.61 on the single October 11 report.
The most recent CAGA IE report was submitted just last Friday, October 19, where $68,800.00 was split between a Denver-based media group and another Washington, D.C. direct-mail shop. The IE filing listed the purpose of the money as opposition mailers against eight Colorado sate representative candidates, seven of whom were Republican along with one Independent. Two additional candidates were listed in the October 19 IE report as supported by CAGA, both Democrats.
In total, CAGA’s IE committee reports show 80 percent of expenditures taking place outside of Colorado. The $1.2 million received in contributions has come entirely from CAGA’s political “527” branch.
Some of CAGA’s most recent expenditures included television ad buys on KREZ-TV, a local New Mexico CBS affiliate serving Albuquerque and Santa Fe. CAGA spent $16,500 on advertising on spots running from October 8 to October 21. While the KREZ station does reach into Colorado and cover far southern cities like Durango, its location is out-of-state with a New Mexico market focus in all of its media.
CAGA uses mainly negative campaign tactics in its advertising and election involvement. Of the twenty-one races CAGA is currently involved in, it stands in opposition to thirteen candidates, all of whom are Republican or Independent. While CAGA does support eight Democrat candidates, the vast majority of CAGA’s resources are expended on the opposition campaigns rather than those the organization stands in solidarity with.