With rare exceptions, City of Boulder elections do not generate the same levels of campaign spending as many other types of campaigns. Top earners for a Boulder City Council race might spend about $20,000, although several types of committees may spend in ways that will also benefit given candidates. Meanwhile, some contested state legislative races break into high six digits or even seven digits, Congressional races average about $1.5 million, and this year’s U.S. Senate race could easily hit eight digits for both the Republican and Democratic nominees.
The money might not be all that large or even a major determining factor in the outcomes, but readers might be interested in local campaign finance if only to consider who’s contributing to which campaigns. I’ve included mentions of contributions from past or present Council members with my candidate profiles and the committees listed below, because it shows who these Council members, who have public records of governing or civic engagement, support moving forward. But readers who are really curious can find all campaign contributions and expenditures up to deadline reporting dates on the city’s Committee Filings webpage, https://bouldercolorado.gov/elections/election-committee-filings.
To keep this short and simple, there are only a few basic things most people need to know to follow local campaign finance, though of course anyone can get super-geeky if they have the time.
- Official candidate committees are established in the interest of electing one City Council candidate – for example, “The Committee to Elect Soren Kierkegaard.”
- Individual contributions to official candidate committees are limited to $100 total. This $100 could be given in one lump sum, or broken up into smaller donations throughout the campaign.
- Official candidate campaigns may qualify for city matching funds to help fund the campaign. This is public financing for qualifying candidates, which can potentially help reduce the need for candidate fundraising, reduce the time spent in fundraising, and allow candidates who don’t have access to top-tier money to compete. Candidates who take matching funds must limit spending to $20,740.
- Ballot measure committees, as the name suggests, are directly established to support or oppose ballot issues. There are no limits on individual contributions to these committees.
- Unofficial candidate committees (UCC) are usually organizational committees formed to support a candidate or group of candidates, but they may not coordinate directly with the official candidate committee. Individual contributions to any one committee are limited to $100, but expenditures are not limited.
- Independent expenditure committees (IEC), like UCCs, may not coordinate directly with official candidate committees, but there are at least two major differences between IECs and UCCs. IECs may not collect contributions, and city filings do not include itemized sources of funding. Also, IECs must report expenditures if they spend more than $200 in support of candidates or in excess of $1,000 for ballot measures.
UNOFFICIAL CANDIDATE COMMITTEES
UCCs can raise and spend money to support candidates, and the money is normally mostly spent to provide advertising, including via media or printed literature like mailers or fliers, in favor of a group of candidates. Functionally, the UCC’s advertising would provide greater overall exposure for supported candidates than what the individual candidate would pay for through their official candidate committee. Another consideration is that several UCCs may support the same group of candidates, or nearly the same group, and individuals may contribute to all or some of the UCCs supporting similar slates – meaning individuals can legally contribute $100 to individual candidates, plus $100 to one or more UCCs.
Here is a quick run-down on the UCCs that have officially filed with the city, which candidates they will support according to official filings, and their key fundraising statistics as of Oct. 8.
- Better Boulder: Supports Aaron Brockett, Benita Duran, Mark McIntyre, Junie Joseph, Rachel Friend, and Bob Yates. As of Oct. 31, it had received $4,720.00 in total donations. It had received $100 maximum donations from former Council members Jan Burton, KC Becker, Macon Cowles, Suzy Ageton, and Will Toor.
- Boulder Progressives: Supports Aaron Brockett, Benita Duran, Mark McIntyre, Junie Joseph, and Rachel Friend. As of Oct. 31, it had received $4,305.00 in total donations. It had received a $100 maximum donation from former Council member Jan Burton.
- Open Boulder: Supports Aaron Brockett, Benita Duran, Mark McIntyre, Junie Joseph, Rachel Friend, and Bob Yates. As of Oct. 31, it had received $1,300.00 in total donations. It had received a $100 maximum donation from former Council member Jan Burton.
- PLAN-Boulder County: Supports Susan Peterson, Mark Wallach, Adam Swetlik, Corina Julca, and Brian Dolan. As of Oct. 31, it had received $3,050.00 in total donations. It had received maximum $100 donations from former Council members Allyn Feinberg, Steve Pomerance, Richard Harris, and Gwen Dooley.
- Save South Boulder: Supports Susan Peterson, Andy Celani, Mark Wallach, Corina Julca, Brian Dolan and Adam Swetlik. As of Oct. 22, it had received $96.13 in total donations.
- The Coalition: Supports Aaron Brockett, Benita Duran, Mark McIntyre, Junie Joseph, and Rachel Friend. As of Oct. 31, it had received $7,830.00 in total donations. It had received $100 maximum donations from former Council members Leslie Durgin, Suzy Ageton, Jan Burton, Gordon Riggle, Andrew Shoemaker, and Matt Appelbaum.
- Together4Boulder: Supports Susan Peterson, Mark Wallach, Adam Swetlik, Corina Julca, and Brian Dolan. As of Oct. 31, it had received $14,015.00 in total donations. It had received $100 maximum donations from former Council members Gwen Dooley, Crystal Gray, and Allyn Feinberg.
BALLOT MEASURE COMMITTEES
- Open Space YES! 2019: As of Oct. 31, the committee had received $8,670.00 in donations. Top contributors included Ruth Wright, George Baker, and Dana Bove – at $500 each. Former Council member Allyn Feinberg contributed $250, former Council member Gwen Dooley contributed $200; current Council member Lisa Morzel contributed $150; and current Council members Bob Yates, Cindy Carlisle, and Suzanne Jones each contributed $100.
- PLAN-Boulder County: As of Oct. 31, the committee had received $1,400.00 in donations. Ruth Wright was the top contributor at $1,000, and former Council member Gwen Dooley contributed $100.
- Save South Boulder: As of Oct. 22, no donations were listed.
INDEPENDENT EXPENDITURE COMMITTEES
- Boulder Chamber of Commerce: As of Oct. 15, the Chamber IEC had reported $14,195.00 in total expenditures.
- Preserve Our Zoning: As of Oct. 15, the Preserve Our Zoning IEC had reported $1,109.62 in total expenditures.