Bloomberg Makes Second $1 Million Donation in Colorado Governor’s Race

Former NYC Mayor aligns with candidate over gun control policies, attacking NRA

Michael Bloomberg
Michael Bloomberg / Getty Images

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made a second donation of $1 million to a PAC supporting Democrat Mike Johnston in what several analysts believe could be the most expensive race in history for Colorado governor.

According to campaign finance figures from the Colorado Secretary of State's office, the political action committee Frontier Fairness recorded the donation on June 5, just three weeks before voting will conclude in the Centennial State. Colorado Politics first reported on the donation.

"We are proud that when Michael Bloomberg looked around the country for leaders who would fight to prevent gun violence, he saw Mike as someone who could make meaningful progress on this critical issue," said Grace Hanover with the Johnston campaign. "Mike led the way on Colorado's progressive gun safety legislation in 2013, passing universal background checks and high-capacity magazine limits. If elected Governor, Mike is committed to passing red flag laws and a ban on bump stocks. This is the track record that drew Bloomberg to donate in support of our campaign"

Two polls released this month both showed him running third behind Rep. Jared Polis and former state treasurer Cary Kennedy. Those polls also showed Johnston struggling with name recognition.

An early television ad from Johnston in February of this year was tied to news of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Johnston highlighted his work on a 2013 bill that placed a fifteen-round limit on all new gun magazines sold in the state. That legislation came in response to the 2012 Aurora theater massacre in which twelve people were killed and dozens more were injured from gunfire.

Bloomberg has a history of involving himself in Colorado politics, especially when gun control is concerned. Phone records for Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) in 2013 showed the governor had two calls with Bloomberg at key moments as the legislation was working its way through the general assembly. Hickenlooper later denied to a group of sheriffs that he had spoken with Bloomberg, but when the phone records were surfaced again, he backtracked, saying he had spoken carelessly.

Two state senators were targeted for recall votes as a response to the 2013 gun laws, and Bloomberg gave heavily to their campaigns. When they lost in the first-ever successful recalls of state officials in Colorado, Bloomberg blamed the outcome in part on "rural" politics, which created a backlash in an election year.

"The NRA went after two or three state senators in a part of Colorado where I don't think there's roads," he told Rolling Stone in the summer of 2014. "It's as far rural as you can get. And, yes, they lost recall elections. I'm sorry for that. We tried to help 'em. But the bottom line is, the law is on the books, and being enforced. You can get depressed about the progress, but on the other hand, you're saving a lot of lives."

The recalls took place in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, the second and ninth most populous cities in the state, respectively.

Hickenlooper, meanwhile, is term-limited out of office, which has led to the competitive open race this election cycle.

Johnston's own hard money fundraising for his personal campaign committee has slightly outpaced Kennedy, who is backed by the teachers unions. But similarly, Johnston hasn't been able to keep pace with Polis, one of the ten wealthiest members of Congress who is financing his own campaign. The most recent data on the secretary of state's website shows Polis' campaign has raised about $11.4 million, most of that from himself.

Johnston's campaign committee has raised $2.3 million, while the PAC has raised $5.7 million.

The fundraising issues led to a contentious exchange at the recent debate. When asked if you have to be a millionaire to win the election, Polis said, "I sure hope not, you know, most of the people up here are probably millionaires."

"Candidates shouldn't be forced to either be wealthy or spend time with ten millionaires at a Denver steakhouse every night trying to raise the funds they need to compete," Polis said moments later, while also mentioning he had supported "comprehensive campaign finance reform nationally to help get money out of politics."

That drew a quick rebuke from Johnston.

"The challenge is, if you're going to advocate for campaign finance without yourself stopping funding your own campaign, that just means that you can buy in while no one else can raise any money," Johnston replied.

"Look, if you didn't have all of these out-of-state donors, I wouldn't have needed to put in my own money to keep up with you," Polis shot back.

Johnston has garnered financial support from other deep-pocketed individuals, many of them out of state like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings.

Requests for comment from Frontier Fairness was not returned, and an effort to contact Bloomberg was unsuccessful.