Richard W. Colburn

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Richard W. Colburn is an Illinois-based investor who serves on the board of Consolidated Electrical Distributors (CED), a privately-held distributor of electrical equipment owned by the Colburn family. CED has approximately 600 stores and annual revenue estimated at $4.2 billion, according to Forbes.[1]

Colburn contributes regularly to Republican candidates and political committees and has made at least one undisclosed contribution to Wisconsin Club for Growth, a group that is at the center of a long-running criminal investigation into potentially illegal campaign coordination with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Coburn also oversees The Negaunee Foundation, which primarily contributes to arts and cultural institutions but also funds right-wing organizations including the Cato Institute, the Mercatus Center, and the Pacific Legal Foundation. See Political Activity below.

Richard W. Colburn is the brother of Keith W. Colburn. Their father was Richard D. Colburn, who made his fortune in business acquisitions, especially related to the construction industry, and was a noted arts benefactor in Los Angeles.[2][3] The Colburn family's net worth is estimated at $1.3 billion. Forbes ranked the Colburns the 156th most wealthy family in the United States in 2014.[1]

Colburn lives in northern Illinois. Many of his business filings and political contributions list the address 555 Skokie Blvd., Ste. 555, Northbrook, IL 60062.

Political Activity

Reported Contributions


Colburn reported the following contributions to political candidates, parties, and committees in the 2014 election cycle:[4][5][6][7]

  • Wisconsin Republican Party: $50,000
  • Bruce Rauner Campaign Committee: $25,000
  • Republican Party of Illinois: $10,000
  • Congressional Leadership Fund: $10,000
  • GOP Generation Y Fund: $10,000
  • Pete Ricketts for Governor: $10,000
  • Scott Walker (R): $5,000
  • 8th District Republican Central Committee: $4,800
  • Dold for Congress: $2,600
  • Aaron Schock (R): $2,600


Colburn reported the following contributions to political candidates, parties, and committees in the 2012 election cycle:[8][5][9]

  • Republican National Committee: $30,800
  • New Prosperity Foundation: $25,000 (Republican Super PAC active in Illinois)[10]
  • National Republican Senatorial Committee: $10,000
  • National Republican Congressional Committee: $8,350
  • Scott Walker (R): $10,000
  • Mitt Romney (R): $5,000
  • Aaron Schock (R): $5,000
  • Kevin Yoder (R): $5,000
  • Dold for Congress (R): $2,500
  • Steven T. Kuykendall (R): $2,500
  • Heather Steans (D): $250

Ties to Scott Walker and Dark Money Groups Under Investigation

Summary of supporting exhibits from case documents filed August 22, 2014.

In addition to a $10,000 contribution he reported making to the recall campaign of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on May 7, 2012,[5] Colburn also made an undisclosed contribution of $50,000 on the same day to Wisconsin Club for Growth (WiCFG), a Wisconsin-based organization that spent at least $9.1 million during the recall elections, and funneled at least $10 million more to other politically-active groups like Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, while reporting that it spent $0 on politics to the IRS.[11] The contribution only became public in August 2014, when documents related to a "John Doe" investigation into potentially illegal campaign coordination between Walker's campaign, WiCFG, WMC, and possibly other groups were briefly unsealed. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the documents suggest that Walker was advised to personally solicit funds from Colburn and others for WiCFG:

"The records include example after example of Walker or his aides encouraging donors to give money to the Wisconsin Club for Growth.
"In September 2011, Doner sent an email to Walker and others with brainstorming ideas for raising money for the Wisconsin Club for Growth. Among them: "Take Koch's money," "Get on a plane to Vegas and sit down with Sheldon Adelson," and "Go heavy after (corporations) to give."
"The club also received $50,000 from Richard Colburn and $25,000 from Keith Colburn soon after a meeting was slated to be held. Richard Colburn is vice president of Consolidated Electrical Distributors; his son Keith is the company's president" (emphasis added).[12]

(The Journal Sentinel appears to have confused Richard W. Colburn with his and Keith's father, Richard D. Colburn; the latter passed away in 2004.)[13]

Case documents filed by the prosecutors include the following supporting exhibits related to Colburn:

[Id. at ¶¶ 65, 66; Exhibits 60, 61] An April 20, 2012, email to Scott Walker, among others, providing a briefing for a meeting on that day facilitated by Eric O’Keefe with Keith Colburn and Richard Colburn. Scott Walker was to attend the meeting for the solicitation of $100,000 "in support of the recall." On April 27, 2012, the WiCFG bank account reflects a deposit of $25,000 from the account of "K. Colburn." On May 7, 2012, the WiCFG bank account reflects a deposit of $50,000 from the account of Richard Colburn.

Richard Colburn has continued supporting Walker financially, reporting contributions of $10,000 in August 2013 and $5,000 in June 2014. Together with his brother, Keith Colburn, and Keith's wife, Betsy,[14] the Colburns made reported contributions of $45,000 to Walker[5] and at least $75,000 in unreported contributions to Wisconsin Club for Growth between 2012 and 2014.

For more information, see the pages Scott Walker, Wisconsin Club for Growth, Scott Walker John Doe Documents, and The Campaign to Legalize Coordination in Wisconsin and Nationwide.

Foundation Contributions

Colburn is the President of the Negaunee Foundation, which held $95.9 million in net assets and distributed $5.2 million in grants in FY 2013. The foundation's income derives mainly from contributions from CED and from interest and earnings on foundation investments.[15] While the foundation primarily contributes to artistic and cultural institutions such as the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Field Museum, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, it also contributes to some right-wing organizations, listed below (all grants listed as "unrestricted use" unless otherwise marked).





As of May 2015:

  • Consolidated Electrical Distributors, Director[18]
  • Payroll and Insurance Group, Inc., Vice President[18]
  • The Negaunee Foundation, President[15]
  • The Colburn Foundation, Board Member[19]
  • The Field Museum (Chicago), Trustee[20]
  • Colburn School, Board Member[21]
  • Henley Management Company (a holding company based in Northbrook, IL), President[19][22]
  • P & S Limited Partnership, Partner[23]
  • Blackfriars Corp., Board Member[24]

Probable affiliations:

  • CED Management Services, Inc., Vice President[18]
  • RCK Properties, President[18]
  • Big Bear Properties, Inc., Chair[25]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Colburn family," Forbes, accessed May 2015.
  2. Elaine Dutka, "One Who's Instrumental Behind the Scenes," L.A. Times, June 6, 1998.
  3. "[ Beverly Hills Billionaire Eavesdropping Case Back in News]," Beverly Hills Courier, October 16, 2012.
  4. Center for Responsive Politics, "Richard Colburn contributions (2014)," Open Secrets database, accessed May 2015.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Contributions from Colburn to Walker, campaign finance database, accessed May 2015.
  6. Center for Responsive Politics, "Top Contributions from 60062 (2014)," Open Secrets database, accessed May 2015.
  7. National Institute for Money in State Politics, "[{1|gro=f-eid,d-id,d-empl Contributions of Richard W. Colburn (2014)," Follow the Money database, accessed May 2015.
  8. Center for Responsive Politics, "Richard Colburn contributions (2012)," Open Secrets database, accessed May 2015.
  9. National Institute for Money in State Politics, "[{1|gro=f-eid,d-id,d-empl Richard W. Colburn contributions (2012)," Follow the Money database, accessed May 2015.
  10. Center for Responsive Politics, "New Prosperity Foundation," Super PAC profile, Open Secrets database, accessed May 2015.
  11. Brendan Fischer, GOP Prosecutor Defends Scott Walker Criminal Probe, Says "Let's Get the Truth Out", PR Watch, May 1, 2015.
  12. Patrick Marley, Daniel Bice, and Lee Bergquist, "Walker wanted funds funneled to Wisconsin Club for Growth," Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 22, 2014.
  13. Claudia Luther, "Richard D. Colburn, 92; Major Benefactor of the Musical Arts in L.A.," L.A. Times, June 4, 2004.
  14. "Colburn, Bingham Award-Winner, To Get Married This Afternoon," The Harvard Crimson, October 3, 1970.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 The Negaunee Foundation, 2013 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, December 15, 2014.
  16. Negaunee Foundation, 2012 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, May 12, 2014.
  17. Negaunee Foundation, 2011 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, January 9, 2013.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 Corporation Wiki, "Richard W. Colburn," accessed May 2015.
  19. 19.0 19.1 The Colburn Foundation, "Board," organizational website, accessed May 2015.
  20. The Field Museum, "Richard W. Colburn," organizational website, accessed May 2015.
  21. Colburn School, "Board of Directors," organizationl website, accessed May 2015.
  22. "Henley Management Company," Bloomberg Business, company overview, accessed May 2015.
  23. Thomas A. Corfman, "Ownership working to hold onto 111 W. Jackson," Crain's Chicago Business, September 22, 2010.
  24. West Virginia Secretary of State, "Blackfriars Corp.," business filing, January 30, 2006. Accessed May 2015.
  25. "Big Bear Properties, Inc.," For Profit Corporation Annual Report, filed with Illinois Secretary of State, April 13, 2009.