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Colorado

Active Republican Outside Money Groups in Colorado

Advancing Colorado

Advancing Colorado is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit registered with the State of Colorado on July 29, 2014.[1] As of 12/02/15, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office listed the group as delinquent for failing to file its tax returns.[2]

The group’s executive director, Jonathan Lockwood, “said Advancing Colorado is not funded by the Koch Brothers, though he declined to disclose donors.”[3] However, Lockwood himself is part of the Koch network. He lists on his LinkedIn page that he is a past Fellow at the Charles Koch Institute, and that he worked as state director for GenOpp immediately before taking his job with Advancing Colorado. According to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, GenOpp receives the vast bulk of its funding from Koch-funded nonprofit organizations.[4] The Charles Koch Institute draws its name from Charles Koch, who funds the Institute through his foundation.[5]

Advancing Colorado has called the Environmental Protection Agency “the definition of tyranny and hypocrisy” and claimed that “this imperial government agency needs to be knocked off its pedestal and punished.”[6] On September 22, 2015, Advancing Colorado announced that it would air a six-figure online, digital and broadcast ad campaign criticizing Sen. Michael Bennet’s support for the Iran nuclear deal.[7]

In January 2016, Advancing Colorado accused Sen. Bennet of “welcoming ISIS to Colorado” in digital ads.[8] Of course, Bennet has done no such thing.

[1]Colorado Secretary of State’s Office – Business Records Search – Advancing Colorado, Inc.” Accessed 12/02/15

[2]Colorado Secretary of State’s Office – Business Records Search – Advancing Colorado, Inc.” Accessed 12/02/15

[3]Ad featuring kids, mushroom cloud slams Bennet for Iran vote.” Erica Werner, The Associated Press, 9/22/15

[4]GenOpp, Too: Another Group Almost Wholly Funded by Koch Network.” Viveca Novak, The Center for Responsive Politics, 5/13/14

[5]Charles Koch Institute.” The Center for Media and Democracy, accessed 12/02/15

[6]’Insufficient’ planning cited in EPA investigation of Gold King Mine spill.” Peter Marcus, The Durango Herald, 8/26/15

[7]Ad featuring kids, mushroom cloud slams Bennet for Iran vote.” Erica Werner, The Associated Press, 9/22/15

[8]Koch-trained spinmeister smears Bennet with bunk.” Kyle Harris, The Colorado Independent, 1/27/16

Compass Colorado

Compass Colorado was founded in 2011.[1] It is a 501(c)(4) ‘social welfare’ nonprofit, meaning that it is not required to disclose its donors.[2] Per IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, such groups are allowed to “devote up to 49 percent of their resources to politics.”[3] Compass Colorado describes its mission as “to engage citizens across the state in the political process through education and awareness campaigns. Compass Colorado will promote government policies that protect Colorado taxpayers, working families, and small businesses from higher taxes, drastic spending increases, unsustainable debt, and government overreach.”[4]

In practice, Compass Colorado frequently focuses on elections. It runs ads often thinly disguised “issue ads” that criticize Democratic candidates for policy positions before upcoming elections. In September 2012, it ran ads criticizing 3 Democratic state lawmakers who were up for re-election in November.[5] In its tax returns for that year, it listed $1.4 million in “other program expenses” out of $1.6 million in total expenses.[6] These “other expenses” were dominated by disbursements of $1.3 million to two media firms.[7] These firms, GCW Media Services and Rock Chalk Media, often work with Republicans.[8][9] In 2013, the group attacked State Sen. Wayne Morse during his recall election, criticizing him for ethics complaints that were “later dismissed, a detail not mentioned in the attack mailer from Compass Colorado.”[10]

As of October 1, 2015, Republican pundit/consultant Kelly Maher is the executive director of Compass Colorado.[11] Past employees include Tyler Houlton, Andy George, and Jonathan Lockwood.[12][13][14] Lockwood now works as executive director of Advancing Colorado, another nonprofit that is taking a lead role in attacking Sen. Michael Bennet.[15]

Compass Colorado’s IRS filings are available from 2011 through 2013. The group is scheduled to file its 2014 returns in December 2015.

The filings also show that Compass Colorado has made grants to the following groups:

  • Colorado PRFRS ($29,185; 2012).[16] This group is also a 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Little information is available about the group.
  • Colorado Justice Alliance ($13,900; 2012).[17] This group is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Little information is available about the group.

IRS filings also show that Compass Colorado received grants from the following nonprofit groups:

  • Grow Our Western Economy ($4,500; 10/22/12).[18] GOWE was reportedly started in part to help bring horse racing to the Western Slope.[19]
  • Colorado Citizens Protecting Our Constitution ($35,000; 2013); this donation was made for “general services.”[20] CCPOC was created in 2013 and attacked several Democratic State Representatives for their support for gun safety laws.[21]

[1]Conservative group Compass Colorado debuts with blitz against education tax measure.” Lynn Bartels, The Denver Post, 10/17/11

[2]Conservative group Compass Colorado debuts with blitz against education tax measure.” Lynn Bartels, The Denver Post, 10/17/11

[3]Campaign finance groups chide IRS chief.” Bernie Becker, The Hill, 04/03/15

[4]Compass Colorado IRS Form 990.” Internal Revenue Service, 12/2013

[5]Democrats dinged for tax hikes in ad blitz.” The Colorado Observer, 09/18/12

[6]Compass Colorado IRS Form 990.” Internal Revenue Service, 12/2012, pp. 1, 10

[7]Compass Colorado IRS Form 990.” Internal Revenue Service, 12/2012, p. 9

[8]Colorado GOP donors fly below the radar with maze of 527 committees.” Scot Kersgaard, The Colorado Independent, 04/23/14

[9]Ho-hum California election cycle paid off for political world.” Jim Miller, The Sacramento Bee, 03/15/15

[10]Aurora, Newtown relatives campaign in Colo. recall.” The Associated Press, 09/04/13

[11]Press release: Dem Colorado Governor expresses doubt about Clinton for President.” Compass Colorado, 10/01/15

[12]Compass Colorado IRS Form 990.” Internal Revenue Service, 12/2012, p. 1

[13]Compass Colorado IRS Form 990.” Internal Revenue Service, 12/2013, p. 1

[14]Press release: Advancing Colorado hires Jonathan Lockwood as Executive Director.” Advancing Colorado, 05/15/15

[15]Apocalyptic ad blasts Bennet for Iran vote.” The Colorado Statesman, 09/24/15

[16]Compass Colorado IRS Form 990.” Internal Revenue Service, 12/2012, Schedule I, p. 1

[17]Compass Colorado IRS Form 990.” Internal Revenue Service, 12/2012, Schedule I, p. 1

[18]Grow Our Western Economy IRS Form 990.” Internal Revenue Service, 12/2012, Schedule O

[19]Racing bill slow getting out of gate.”

[20]Colorado Citizens Protecting Our Constitution IRS Form 990.” Internal Revenue Service, 12/2013

[21]Secret money funds gun ads.” Joe Hanel, The Durango Herald, 02/27/13

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