- LGBT mega-donor
- Helped fund a progressive tide in Colorado which turned the red state blue
- Is considered “Colorado’s answer to Karl Rove”
Ted Trimpa was born in Kansas on February 12, 1967, and grew up on a wheat farm. He later attended the University of Denver, where he earned both a BA and a JD degree. While employed by the Denver-based law and lobbying firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck between 1999 and 2008, Trimpa earned nearly $2.4 million as a lobbyist representing the Vector Group, a billion-dollar tobacco/real estate company. He also worked on a number of lobbying contracts for corporations in the oil, student loan, and telecommunications industries.
In April 2004, Trimpa, an openly gay man with a leftist political orientation, held a lunch meeeting with former Colorado State University president Al Yates to discuss the future of political activism in their state. As the Washington Free Beacon reports, “The concept of pooling together the resources of wealthy liberal patrons in a select few groups was born at that lunch.” Trimpa promptly founded a state-level organization dedicated to harnessing the financial clout of millionaire and billionaire donors to fund the promotion of left-wing agenda items – particularly LGBT issues such as gay marriage and hate-crimes legislation. From the standpoint of electoral politics, meanwhile, his goal was to transform Colorado, a traditionally Republican stronghold, into a majority-Democrat state.
Toward that end, Trimpa joined forces with mega-donor Tim Gill, who himself had already allocated many millions of dollars to advancing LGBT causes. Noting that most “antigay” bills originated in state legislatures rather than in the U.S. Congress, the pair reasoned that any effort to affect the fate of such bills — and, by extension, the outcome of political elections — had a much greater likelihood of succeeding on the state level, where relatively modest but smartly placed investments could flip an entire legislative chamber from Republican to Democrat in a short time period, than on the federal level. In 2004, Trimpa and Gill contributed millions of dollars to help groups like the Alliance for Colorado’s Families and the Coalition for a Better Colorado create state-of-the-art databases from which microtargeted advertising campaigns and get-out-the-vote drives could be developed. In part because of this, Democrats recaptured control of both state legislative chambers in Colorado for the first time in three decades. Some highlights:
• Whereas Republicans held a 37-28 majority in the state’s 65-member House of Representatives prior to the 2004 elections, the Democrats took a 33-32 post-election advantage, and then increased it to 39-26 in 2006.
• Whereas Republicans held an 18-17 edge in the 35-member Colorado State Senate prior to the 2004 elections, the Democrats reversed those numbers when the votes were tallied that November, and then increased their margin to 20-15 in 2006.
• Democrats Ken Salazar and Mark Udall were elected to replace Republican incumbents as Colorado’s U.S. Senators in 2004 and 2008, respectively.
• By 2006, Democrats held 4 of Colorado’s 7 seats in the U.S. House, after having been the minority party for 14 years.
• In 2006 as well, Democrat Bill Ritter replaced Republican Bill Owens as Colorado’s governor.
• In 2008, a majority of Coloradans supported a Democrat for U.S. President for only the second time in 40 years.
In 2007 The Atlantic singled out Trimpa for his contribution to these turnarounds, dubbing him “Colorado’s answer to Karl Rove,” the influential Republican political consultant.
Around that time as well, Trimpa expanded his political horizons beyond state lines as he became involved with the Democracy Alliance (DA), which had been established in 2005 to recruit big donors to fund leftist causes on a national level. In 2009, Trimpa became a DA board member.
In 2010, Trimpa left Hogan & Hartson to start his own Denver-based lobbying firm called the Trimpa Group, which describes its areas of expertise as “progressive consulting, philanthropic and political investment advising, and government relations.”
During the years that followed, Trimpa and Tim Gill were powerful forces in the nationwide fight to promote the legalization of same-sex marriage — a fight that culminated in the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that made such unions legal in all 50 states. Elated by this turn of events, Gill described Trimpa as one of the “brightest strategic minds in the entire gay movement.”
In 2016, the LGBT lobbying group One Colorado honored Trimpa with a lifetime achievement award “for the ‘fingerprints’ he has left on the struggle for gay rights nationwide.” Trimpa’s longtime friend, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, presented the award to him.
In addition to his work with his lobbying group, Trimpa serves as a board member for ProgressNow (which uses media and targeted email campaigns to “promote progressive ideas and causes” and to “counter the right wing”); Third Way (a national think tank that “champions modern center-left ideas”); the Tectonic Theater Project (which uses theatrical productions to promote left-wing political and social agendas); and the Citizen Engagement Laboratory (which helps clients “plan, staff, resource, and execute innovative social change projects” — particularly in issue areas like climate change, economic inequality, and voter mobilization).
For additional information on Ted Trimpa, click here.
Further Reading: “Ted Trimpa: How One Gay Activist Changed Colorado and a Nation” (Denver Post, 7-21-2015); “Ted Trimpa: Founding Father” (Washington Free Beacon, 9-13-2012); “They Won’t Know What Hit Them” (The Atlantic, March 2007); “Meet the Megadonor Behind the LGBTQ Rights Movement” (Rolling Stone, 6-23-2017); “Ted Trimpa, a New Face at the Democracy Alliance” (by Matthew Vadum, Capital Research Center, 5-5-2009).