Billionaires, Casinos And Dark Money Groups Are Pouring Millions Into Campaigns On Tax Ballot Measures

Andy Cross, The Denver Post

This off-year election is turning on the money.

Billionaires, casinos and dark money groups have contributed $5 million to campaigns for a pair of tax-related ballot initiatives, Proposition CC and DD. If voters approve Prop CC, Colorado will be released from constitutional revenue caps put in place nearly 30 years ago by voters. Proposition DD, meanwhile, is a tax on casinos for sports gambling.

Backers of Prop CC include a mix of wealthy donors, like Dan Ritchie, former DU chancellor, and Pat Stryker, heiress to a medical equipment fortune, who have a long history in Colorado politics. Major contributions also come from non-profits with no requirements to disclose donors, like $500,000 each from Strategic Victory Fund and North Fund.

Voter Resources

Prop CC has significant opposition from Americans for Prosperity, a libertarian political and advocacy group started by the Koch brothers. The group is funding and operating its campaign with almost no disclosure. Americans for Prosperity Issue Committee reports $1 million in non-monetary contributions from Americans for Prosperity in Arlington, VA, according to Colorado Secretary of State records. The explanations for the non-monetary contributions include TV and radio ads, canvassing expenses, and mailers.

Sports gambling has no organized opposition, yet casinos and mobile betting sites have contributed more than $1.3 million to the 'yes' campaign. The difficulty for proponents of sports gambling is how the question is phrased on the ballot. It's confusing, and it's not clear that the tax is on casinos, not the general public. The campaign has spent $904,080 on advertising, with a heavy dose of "it's a tax on CASINOS" as a key message.