Colorado’s top political contributors

Katie Kuntz and Anna Boiko-Weyrauch
Rocky Mountain PBS I-News

The 2014 election is on track to be the most expensive in the nation’s history, and that is highly unusual for a midterm election.

With its bitterly contested U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, Colorado has been a focus of huge sums of money. Much of it comes from mega-corporations and multimillionaires and billionaires from outside the state.

But the money flows both ways. There are many Coloradans who use their financial power to influence politics nationally and in other states.

Rocky Mountain PBS I-News, teaming with the Investigative News Network, has identified Colorado’s 10 most politically active contributors. The analysis reviewed federal and state contribution disclosures obtained from the National Institute on Money in State Politics and the Center for Responsive Politics.

This data does not include the total amounts for spending in 2014, as donations may continue through Election Day. It doesn’t reflect contributions to any of the political non-profits, which do not have to disclose donors.

It does reveal the contributions from individuals given directly to candidates or political parties.

Colorado’s top 10 political power players have contributed about $6.5 million since 2011 to state and national elections.

Number 1: Pat Stryker, $1,327,400

Occupation: Founder of Bohemian Companies and the Bohemian Foundation, an arts and culture organization focusing on public health and environmental issues. Stryker’s wealth comes from the Stryker Corp., a medical device company founded by her grandfather, Homer Stryker.

Residence: Fort Collins, Colo.

2014 contributions: Stryker’s largest campaign contribution this year, $10,000, was to the Democratic Party of Colorado. She also donated the maximum legal amount, $2,600, to the reelection campaigns of U.S. Reps. Jared Polis, Ed Perlmutter, and Diana DeGette.

Overall contributions: Each year since 2011, she has maxed out her contributions to the Democratic Party of Colorado, and consistently donates directly to Democratic candidates running in both state and federal elections. Her largest single contribution since 2011 was her million dollar donation to “Colorado Commits to Kids,” a 2013 issue committee that aimed to increase revenue for public schools in the state. The ballot measure was unsuccessful.

Did you know: Stryker contributed in total $20,000 toward Colorado politics this cycle.

Number 2: Tim Gill, $1,138,376

Occupation: Tim Gill founder of Quark Inc., a software development company, in 1981.

Residence: Denver, Colo.

2014 contributions: His largest in 2014 was a $25,000 donation to the campaign committee, “Ready for Hillary,” which operates on behalf of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Overall contributions: Since 2011, Tim Gill has actively supported both Democrats and Republicans, though he supports the Democratic Party more frequently.

Did you know: Gill is considered among the most influential “gay donors” in the United States.

Number 3: Tatnall Hillman, $639,057

Occupation: Retired. Hillman is the son of John Hartwell Hillman Jr., who made his billions from coal, steel and gas.

Residence: Aspen.

2014 contributions: Hillman is a conservative donor. This year, his largest donation of $40,000 went to the Club for Growth Action committee, a national organization that benefits Republicans. The majority of Hillman’s contributions in 2014 went to candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in other states. He donated $2,600, the maximum contribution an individual may give to a candidate, to 20 candidates nationwide. He contributed $2,600 each to U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner’s U.S. Senate candidacy and Scott Tipton’s reelection bid to the U.S. House.

Overall contributions: Hillman has consistently contributed to conservative candidates and political action committees nationally.

Did you know: Tatnall Hillman has kept his life private over the years, despite his many campaign contributions. When I-News requested a comment for this story, Hillman replied, “My best comment is no comment.”

Number 4: Joe Ricketts, $618,500

Occupation: Former CEO and Chairman of TD Ameritrade, an online investment firm headquartered in Omaha, Neb. Residence: Little Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Joe Ricketts does not currently live in Colorado. However, his personal holdings company, Hugo Enterprises, is headquartered in Denver. He listed this address when reporting more than $600,000 of donations in 2011 and 2012, launching him to a top spot among Colorado’s Power Players.

Overall contributions: In 2011 and 2012, none of the $600,000 in donations he listed as originating in Colorado went to a Colorado candidate. He donated $2,500 each to five of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates and another $2,500 to Gary Johnson, a Libertarian presidential hopeful and former governor of New Mexico.

Did you know: Joe Ricketts is listed as one of the Forbes Top 400 richest people in the United States. =

Number 5: Larry Mizel, $613,800

Occupation: Chairman and CEO of M.D.C. Holdings, Inc., a homebuilding and financial services business.

Residence: Denver, Colo.

2014 contributions: This year, Mizel donated $100,000 to a Super PAC focused on the reelection of GOP U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. His next largest contributions included two donations of $32,400 to the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican National Committee.

Overall contributions: Since 2011, Mizel has been particularly active in high-profile Republican campaigns.

Did you know: Businessweek estimates that Mizel’s total compensation from M.D.C. Holdings, Inc. in 2013 topped $12 million.

Number 6: Ben Walton, $500,000

Occupation: Philanthropist and Board member of the Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropic organization of the founders of Wal-Mart.

Residence: Denver, Colo.

2014 contributions: None.

Overall contributions: Walton was one of the top donors to Colorado Commits to Kids with a $500,000 donation. The group organized in favor of Amendment 66, a measure which would have changed the state’s tax structure to fund K-12 education.

Number 7: Gregory B. Maffei, $482,899

Occupation: President and CEO of Liberty Media Corporation, which owns the Atlanta Braves and holds stakes in major media companies, such as SiriusXM and Barnes & Noble.

Residence: Englewood, Colo.

2014 contributions: This year he spent $148,999, with donations to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Republican candidates for senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, John McCain, Arizona, and Mike Rounds, South Dakota. The largest donation was $100,000 to conservative Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, based in Alexandria, Va.

Overall contributions: Maffei has largely donated to Republican candidates and causes, spending $482,899 since 2011.

Did you know: In 2011 Maffei donated $1,100 to Gov. John Hickenlooper, but has not donated to the governor since.

Number 8: Merle Chambers, $430,260

Occupation: Former oil and gas executive turned philanthropist. Founder of the Chambers Family Fund, which focuses on women and family issues.

Residence: Denver, Colo.

2014 contributions: This year Chambers has contributed $5,650. For the second year in a row she has maxed out her contribution limit of $2,600 on Colorado Sen. Mark Udall’s campaign.

Overall contributions: Chambers has largely contributed to Democratic causes and candidates. Last year she contributed $25,000 to a gun control group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, and in 2012 she sent $200,000 to liberal super PAC Fair Share Action.

Did you know: Many of Chambers’ contributions focus on Democratic female leadership across the United States.

Number 9: John C. Malone, $415,000

Occupation: Chairman of Liberty Media Corporation, Chairman and CEO of Steele Street Bank & Trust.

Residence: Elizabeth, Colo.

2014 contributions: This year Malone contributed $25,200 so far, with $5,200 going to Sen. John McCain, $10,000 to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and $10,000 to the Republican Party of Maine.

Overall contributions: Republicans, including Boehner and Romney, have benefited the most from Malone’s contributions.

Did you know: A large chunk of Malone’s contributions have gone to Maine.

Number 10: David Merage, $404,087

Occupation: Co-founder of Chef America and founder of investment management company, Consolidated Investment Group.

Residence: Englewood, Colo.

2014 contributions: Merage has contributed $39,125 so far this year, including funds to both Republicans and Democrats, with $12,825 to the Democratic Party of Colorado and $15,000 to the Republican National Committee. Overall contributions: Last year Merage donated $257,042 to pro-Amendment 66 group, Colorado Commits to Kids. He backed Mike Coffman three years in a row; the most recent contribution was $1,100 this year. He has also backed Colorado Senator Mark Udall two years in a row with the most recent contribution of $2,400 last year. In the 2012 presidential campaigns, he donated $2,500 to Barack Obama and $5,000 to Mitt Romney.

Did you know: Chef America, the frozen food company Merage co-founded, is the progenitor of Hot Pockets.


The data in this story was compiled by the Investigative News Network from, a project of the National Institute on Money in State Politics and, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics. The project is partnership with other newsrooms and includes the top donors from 12 states.