Large super PAC spending flows for Mike Johnston

The group supporting Brough, so far, has lagged.
3 min. read
Candidate for Denver mayor, Mike Johnston, on election night, April 4, 2023, at the Maven Hotel in downtown Denver.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

A super PAC supporting Mike Johnston paid for the first TV ads of the Denver mayor runoff election -- and area TV viewers can expect to see many more  in the coming days.

The super PAC, called Advancing Denver, reported $526,747 in "media buy" expenditures this week, according to city data, just days before ballots go out on Monday. That's almost 10 times the spending of the PAC supporting Johnston's opponent, Kelly Brough.

A Better Denver, the PAC backing Brough, has spent less than $60,000 since election day on digital ads and canvassing.

The super PACS don't have to report contributions until the money is spent, so it's unknown how much exactly Advancing Denver or A Better Denver have raised.

The PACs, also known as independent expenditure committees, or IEs, are free of contribution limits but cannot coordinate with the candidates.

Advancing Denver, the PAC running ads for Johnston, collected $255,907 since Election Day, according to city campaign finance records. The top donors in the runoff are some of the same names from the general election: Steve Mandel, a hedge fund manager from Connecticut; Kent Thiry, the former CEO of Davita; and Jim Kelley, of Vestar Capital.

Reported donors to Advancing Denver since Election Day in April.
Source: Denver Elections Division

New to the list supporting Johnston is the Apartment Association of Metro Denver, which gave $10,000 to Advancing Denver.

Before the first round of voting, back in February, the group gave $25,000 to A Better Denver, which is backing Brough.

Also new to the list for Johnston is Hensel Phelps Construction, one of the largest city contractors, with a $7,500 contribution to Advancing Denver. Hensel Phelps is a client of Maria Garcia Berry's lobby firm CRL Associates. Berry gave to support Brough, contributing $1,000 to A Better Denver.

A Better Denver reported dozens of similar, relatively small contributions, of $1,000 or less, in the last two months. But there were two large gifts, one for $35,000 worth of canvassing provided by Books and Bags Field Warriors, and $10,000 just before election day in April from Denver Families for Public Schools Action.

Brough and Johnston raised about $400,000 each in April, enough money to run their own ads leading up to Election Day. According to one contract filed reported to the FEC, Brough's campaign spent $46,725 on 57 spots that will run on 9News starting on Sunday morning. Ballots are mailed the next day.

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