That election mailer you’re about to get? You may have helped pay for it

Denver’s new tool to help publicly finance elections just sent out its first checks.
2 min. read
Ryan Garrett points to his pin after voting on Election Day, Nov. 5, 2019.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The city of Denver sent out $995,054.94 this week to support the campaigns of candidates running in next year's municipal election.

That money is from the Fair Elections Fund, and there's more on the way. Voters approved the fund in 2018 as part of a sweeping overhaul of Denver's campaign finance rules, but it's just coming online this summer. The goal is to encourage candidates to turn down big money donors. Officials also hope it will give a leg up to those with lower political profiles.

Fifteen candidates will split the first payout from the fund, including five incumbent city council members running for reelection. In all, 36 of the 43 registered candidates for next year's election have signed on to participate.

For every contribution Denver residents make to a candidate -- as long as it's between $5 and $50 -- the city matches it ninefold. That means the fund turns a $5 contribution into $50, $10 into $100, and so on. But to qualify for the money, a candidate must agree to cap the size of the individual donations they'll accept and turn down any money from PACs.

In all, the Fair Elections Fund will disperse around $8 million to candidates for this election. The money comes from the city's tax collections, to the tune of $2.88 per Denver resident.

The candidate to receive the largest payout in this round was Travis Leiker, who's running for an at-large seat on the council. Leiker is the head of the Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods and is high up in development at the University of Colorado. He received $138,733.11 from the Fair Election Fund.

Alongside the fund's roll-out, Denver Clerk and Recorder Paul Lopez is also touting the city's new campaign finance portal, which went live back in February. The idea is that if the city is going to send tax dollars to candidates who play by donation rules, it might be nice for people to see what donations they're actually getting, and from whom.

Denver's municipal election is April 4, 2023.

Editors Note: A previous version of this story mistakenly referred to Paul Lopez the city treasurer. 

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