More than $1 million in taxpayer money went out to mayoral campaigns in final payment

The Fair Elections Fund spent more than $7 million total but didn’t run out of money, as many feared.
3 min. read
Denverite’s People’s Forum mayoral debate at the Carla Madison Rec Center. March 7, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Kelly Brough is the first and only mayoral candidate to max out her contributions under the Fair Elections Fund, at $750,000 total.

The former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO received $219,509 from the fund in March. The Fair Elections Fund was approved by voters back in 2018, providing a taxpayer match on qualifying Denver contributions, but it came with a cap of $750,000 for mayoral candidates.

Mike Johnston received the largest single Fair Elections Fund check of this election cycle with $360,504 paid to his campaign for March. That brings his total FEF payments to $613,539.

The election is two weeks away - ballots are due April 4.

Ben Markus/CPR News
Ben Marcus, CPR News.

Johnston and Brough lead the so-called "hard money" race, meaning direct contributions to their campaigns. Candidates have control of how this money is spent.

Meanwhile, Johnston and Brough also lead the pack in independent expenditure funding, but IEs cannot coordinate with a candidate's official campaign in how that money is used. The IE supporting Brough, A Better Denver, got another $150,000 check from the National Association of REALTORS. That puts their total contributions to A Better Denver at $450,000, the largest single contributor to that committee.

A Better Denver has $913,175 in total reported contributions so far.

The IE supporting Johnston has reported $1,411,804, thanks in part to almost $800,000 from Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn.

Ben Markus/CPR News
Ben Marcus/CPR News.

State Rep. Leslie Herod received the third largest check from the Fair Elections Fund in March, $145,826, less than half what Johnston received. But Herod has been in the race longer and has received a total of $587,057 in FEF payments.

State Senator Chris Hansen is the only other candidate to get a Fair Elections Fund check in March for more $100,000, putting his total at $375,188.

Kwame Spearman dropped out of the mayor's race last week. He will still get a check for $69,966 for March. He can pay incurred expenses prior to withdrawing, but he has to return any unspent Fair Elections Fund money to the city within 60 days.

The Fair Elections Fund started with $8 million for this election cycle and did not run out of money -- despite fears that it would. More than 19,000 contributions have been matched, and the Denver Clerk and Recorder has distributed $7,118,105 to campaigns for city council, clerk, auditor, and mayor. That leaves $881,895 for runoffs in races where no candidate received 50 percent ballots cast.

Each qualifying campaign will get a check for 25 percent of their total Fair Elections Fund payments during the general election.

The runoff is scheduled for June 6.

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