Leadership PACs help Colorado’s members of Congress extend their influence

Caitlyn Kim/CPR News
Rep. Joe Neguse receives congratulations from a colleague after being elected chair or the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee for the 118th Congress on Dec. 1, 2022.

Running for federal office can be a very costly endeavor. And while a lot of the focus tends to be on how much a candidate raises and spends for their own race, lawmakers also donate to other campaigns and their parties as they hope to win the majority, try to get other like-minded candidates elected and seek more influence in their caucus.

A look at campaign data through Nov. 28 shows that Colorado lawmakers contributed to numerous other campaigns across the country, even as they ran for reelection. To do so, many used leadership PACs — committees they have established for the sole purpose of giving to other candidates.

Boulder Rep. Joe Neguse, co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DCPP) this past Congress, donated to several dozen candidates. He also supported his party by sending $440,000 to the DCCC, the campaign arm of House Democrats. In the next Congress, Neguse will see his star rise further, after he was selected to become the DCPP’s chair.

Through his leadership PAC, he contributed almost $90,000 to more than 80 candidates, both incumbents up for reelection and those seeking office for the first time. Separately, he transferred more than $80,000 from his campaign account to the campaigns of about 50 candidates.

Neguse, who raised $2.3 million dollars for his campaign, is in safe seat and ran against a Republican who raised less than $50,000. 

Fellow Democrat, Rep. Jason Crow is also in a safe seat; he sent the DCCC about $200,000 to support candidates across the country. He also donated more than $80,000 from his leadership PAC to about 40 candidates and sent $50,000 to more than 35 candidates from his campaign account.

Rep. Diana DeGette sent the DCCC $285,000, and used her leadership PAC to support about 50 candidates with about $65,000.

Meanwhile, outgoing Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter transferred $250,000 to the DCCC this cycle and contributed more than $75,000 to almost 50 candidates from his campaign account. He also sent over $60,000 to about 40 candidates for House and Senate campaigns through his leadership PAC.

All four contributed to the campaigns of their fellow Colorado Democrats, Brittany Pettersen and Yadira Caraveo, who were running in open seats. Perlmutter and Sen. John Hickenlooper also contributed to Democratic candidate Adam Frisch, who came close to unseating Rep. Lauren Boebert in the CO-3 race.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Colorado Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert at the 2022 Western Conservative Summit on Friday, June 3, 2022.

Boebert was the most prolific fundraiser out of the Colorado Republicans and the House delegation writ large. Aside from raising more than $7 million for her own reelection, she gave nearly $90,000 from her leadership PAC to almost 50 candidates, including Colorado congressional candidates Erik Aadland and Barbara Kirkmeyer, who ended up losing to Pettersen and Caraveo, respectively. 

Boebert also contributed $35,000 to the NRCC, the House Republican campaign arm, at the start of her first term in office.

Out of the Republicans, Rep. Doug Lamborn gave the most to the NRCC, transferring $110,000. Lamborn is the state’s longest-serving GOP member of congress and represents a deep red district. However, his direct giving was lower than other members of the delegation. He contributed $17,000 to more than a dozen candidates from his campaign account, while his leadership PAC gave over $8,000 to four candidates. The recipients included Aadland and Kirkmeyer.

Unlike his GOP colleagues, Rep. Ken Buck did not give any money to the NRCC this cycle, at least through November 28. He did contribute to help other candidates, including Kirkmeyer and Boebert. Through his leadership PAC he sent more than $25,000 to just under 10 campaigns, including Kirkmeyer’s and Utah Sen. Mike Lee.

On the Senate side, Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper — who, like Perlmutter, was the only incumbent not facing a reelection race — donated more than $165,000 to almost 20 candidates through his leadership PAC.

Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet contributed more than $150,000 from his leadership PAC to almost 20 candidates, despite being engaged in his own costly reelection battle, and sent an additional $20,000 to the DSCC, the Democrats’ Senate campaign arm.

Both senators donated to colleagues and candidates in tight races, such as Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Sen.-elect John Fetterman of Pennsylvania. All three races were key in helping Democrats keep control of the Senate.