According to longtime conservative activist Chuck Bonniwell, Colorado’s most prominent conservative dark money group, Advance Colorado, is funded by billionaire Phil Anschutz.

Bonniwell, who is a member of the state GOP Central Committee, made the claim while interviewing former Arapahoe District Attorney George Brauchler for the podcast he hosts along with his wife, Julie Hayden.

Bonniwell was describing the well-known rift within the Colorado Republican Party between the so-called establishment, backed by business interests and wealthy donors like Anschutz, and the grassroots activists. While the split dates back to the 2010 Tea Party movement, these days the grassroots faction largely consists of die-hard MAGA Trumpers.

 I’m fascinated because all we do here on the grassroots side  — and George is with the Anschutz people, Advance Colorado, all funded by Phil Anschutz, all funded — 

Brauchler: Wait a minute, here I go out of my way to say, ‘You’re no Stalinist,” and all of a sudden, you’re like, “Brauchler’s on the couch with Phil!”

Bonniwell: I think being an Anschutzist is not the same as being a Stalinist.

Brauchler did not deny Bonniwell’s claim, instead laughing it off and returning to the topic at hand, debating the proposed amendment to the party bylaws that would have counted any Central Committee member’s failure to vote as a yes. Bonniwell wrote the amendment, which failed by a wide margin at last weekend’s meeting.

Brauchler, who has led Advance Colorado as its president ever since his term as Arapahoe County area District Attorney ended in January 2021, did not respond to an email request for comment. Neither did Michael Fields, who leads the Advance Colorado Institute, its 501c3 arm, and is also Advance Colorado’s lobbyist.

Bonniwell likewise did not respond to an emailed request to elaborate on his claim about Anschutz’s funding of Advance Colorado.

Previously known as Unite for Colorado, the group spent over $17 million in support Republican candidates and campaigns in 2020 alone. Its tax filing lists Kristi Pollard as its principal officer. Pollard is a nonprofit management consultant and is married to Tim Pollard, co-founder of The 76 Group, Colorado’s most prominent Republican consulting firm.

As a 501c4, or so-called “dark money” group, Advance Colorado is not required to disclose its donors. What little we do know comes from 501c3 foundations reporting their grants to the IRS. Advance Colorado received $250,000 in 2021 from the Bradley Impact Fund, a donor-advised fund aligned with the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. That same year it received double that amount, $500,000, from the Colorado Opportunity Foundation, a 501c3 launched in 2020, that funds a number of conservative advocacy groups. Its principal director? That would be Advance Colorado’s Michael Fields.

Other conservative groups receiving money from COF include the Common Sense Institute ($285,000), Public Trust Institute ($350,000) and the Independence Institute, which got $850,000, nearly a third of its total income that year. Where did Colorado Opportunity Fund get its money? In 2021, it received nearly half its two million dollar revenue from a $900,000 grant from The Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, which is the nation’s largest public charity and the first commercial provider of donor-advised fund. Bradley Impact Fund also reported giving Fields’ Colorado Opportunity Fund $125,000 that year.

Attempts to reach Anschutz at various corporate entities were unsuccessful. Anschutz is the wealthiest person in Colorado. Originally making his fortune in oil and gas, he owns numerous companies, including Anschutz Entertainment Group and Clarity Media, which owns the Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Gazette, and Colorado Politics. This article will be updated with any responses received.

Bonniwell and Brauchler’s entire debate is available here, with the exchange about Advance Colorado beginning at 22:55.