Colorado political ads: Hickenlooper makes a buy

The news: Gov. John Hickenlooper is in the market, contracting for 330 October and early November spots at a cost of $321,505 two of the five reporting Denver stations. Here’s where the GOP field is at a disadvantage. The Republican Party might be able to reserve time for a candidate in the fall and transfer it to the nominee that emerges from the June 24 primary, but will they?

Totals: As of May 16, political ad contracts with the five Denver TV stations total just more than $6 million for more than 7,000 spots. That’s 58 hours of time so far. This only for stations required to file ad contracts with the Federal Communications Commission. It should be noted that KCNC Channel 4 hasn’t filed any contracts with the FCC since May 5, so there’s probably plenty missing here. And the totals don’t include other stations around the state (they will file starting July 1), or cable or satellite broadcaster, who don’t have to file with the FCC.

The latest buys: Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy secured September contracts at two of the five stations, presumably to campaign for a local control ballot initiative aimed at allowing communities to regulate fracking. The American Energy Alliance is also new on the market, airing ads bashing Democratic Sen. Mark Udall over the Keystone pipeline.

Note that a $740,000 buy for the fall at KMGH is still included in this list, though the station refused to disclose the buyer and removed the contract. The media firm that contracted for the ads is also used by the American Energy Alliance, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners. Here’s a look at the buyers:

Dark vs. disclosed: So far, Hickenlooper and Udall are the only candidates buying air time. But their ads account for only about 15 percent of the $6 million total. The rest are ads purchased by outside groups. Some of those — the House Majority PAC, Senate Majority PAC, Coloradans for Safe and Clean Energy and Protect Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy — must report their contributions and expenditures to either the Federal Election Commission or the Colorado Secretary of State.

Others are “dark money,” spending by nonprofits that aren’t required to disclose their donors. Some, including the American Energy Alliance, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners are linked to the conservative Koch brothers. Then there’s the League of Conservation Voters, the big dark-money on the left. Here’s a look at the dark vs. disclosed money so far:

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