DENVER—When officials at the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association made a donation earlier this year to Mainstream Colorado, they didn’t realize they were getting involved in a contentious recall election over firearms.
But the association and a dozen other corporations now find themselves as funders of the Democrat opposition to the recall, thanks to their donations to Mainstream Colorado, the Senate Democrats’ 527 fundraising arm.
Mainstream Colorado has poured more than $21,000 into Pueblo United for Angela, the group defending state Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo), which has raised about $93,000 as of its July 1 financial-disclosure statement.
Mainstream Colorado has also donated $17,000 to A Whole Lot of People for John Morse, the committee supporting Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), which has collected more than $160,000 as of July 5.
Grier Bailey, government-affairs manager for the petroleum marketers’ association, said taking sides in the recall wasn’t the organization’s intent.
“We didn’t make the contribution with any intent of influencing the recall election one way or another,” said Bailey.
He noted that the group’s donation came in January, before the recall drives were launched over the state legislature’s votes in favor of gun-control bills in March.
The group also donated to the state House Republicans, he said.
“While I understand the Senate Democrats are using the aggregate funding, that’s not necessarily why we contributed to them,” said Bailey. “We don’t take a position on gun legislation one way or another.”
Recall organizers were surprised to see that Walmart contributed $2,500 to Mainstream Colorado. Walmart sells, among other things, firearms and ammunition.
Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia noted that the company made its donation in January, before the gun-control bills or recalls were on the state’s political radar.
“Walmart’s sole contribution to Mainstream Colorado was in January 2013 for sponsorship of a legislative dinner event hosted by Senate leadership. To suggest anything else would be inaccurate,” said Garcia in a statement.
Still, the Walmart donation does sting a little, said Victor Head, president of Pueblo Freedom and Rights, which is running the Giron recall effort.
“It’s unfortunate. I like Walmart. My girlfriend works at Walmart,” said Head.
Lara Rezzarday, spokeswoman for Waste Management’s Four Corners Area, said the company made $1,000 contributions in February to Mainstream Colorado as well as the House Democrats and House and Senate Republicans.
“We were unaware that the group donated to fund any recall election efforts,” said Ms. Rezzarday in an email.
Mainstream Colorado has raised more than $213,000 this year on behalf of the Senate Democrats. The committee’s registered agent is Julie Wells, who was also the agent on more than two dozen so-called “blueprint” fundraising groups that helped flip the state legislature from Republican to Democrat over the past few election cycles.
Wells, who lists Cadiz, Ky., as her address, “is the go-to agent for start-up liberal and Democrat organizations in Colorado,” said Media Trackers in a Feb. 14 article.
“Since 2006, Wells has registered 27 different campaigns, political non-profits, and other strategic liberal organizations which have all served a specific purpose within the left’s network across the state,” said the article. “Most of these organizations are created and dissolved in the very same election cycle and several are shut down before any official financial or data reports are required.”
Most of the corporate donations appear on Mainstream Colorado’s April 15 financial-disclosure report and were made before the recalls kicked into gear. Those include donations from Black Hawk Riviera Casino ($25,000), Kroger ($2,500), PHARMA ($25,000), AT&T ($5,000), Kum & Go ($5,000) and Safeway ($2,500).
Contributions made in June, after the recall effort was launched, include those from Racing Associates of Colorado ($50,000), Colorado Public Safety Fund ($5,000), and the Colorado Chiropractic Association ($2,500).
EDITOR’S NOTE: The original version of this story erroneously listed the Colorado Chiropractic Association’s contribution amount as $5,000