Heidi Ganahl’s colorful campaign finance company


More than six months before announcing her candidacy for governor, University of Colorado regent Heidi Ganahl launched a podcast called Heidi’s Colored Colorado (HCC). In her intro video, Ganahl says, “In typical Heidi fashion, we do things out of the box!”

Out of the box, indeed. While the project’s purpose is ostensibly to “bring the people of Colorado together”, the podcast is registered as a 501c4 nonprofit “welfare” organization, i.e. a group of money black man who can raise and spend essentially unlimited money to indirectly support his campaign without disclosing his donors.

Ganahl poses with supporters at his campaign launch event

Ganahl’s nonprofit podcast company was registered by Gwen Benevento, an attorney at Maven Law Group, a favored firm of Republicans in Colorado.

Benevento, who specializes in political, electoral and campaign finance law, also filed the documents for Ganahl’s official campaign committee.

Governor of Ganahl countryside uses a very similar color scheme and logo to the podcast, so the podcast’s early launch gave its campaign a six-month head start on building a brand name and identity crucial.

She gave many press interviews and does radio and public appearances promoting the podcast, which Colorado experts said was a prelude to running for higher office.

Colorful Instagram posts from Heidi in Colorado

Ganahl’s September 13 launch event only formalized a campaign that political observers had taken for granted for months. In early May, political commentator Eric Sondermann told the Colorado time recorder.

“I don’t think she just decided to write a column and produce a podcast out of the blue,” Sonderman said. “I think they are part of a conscious strategy to raise his profile.”

In mid-August, the two The Denver post and the Colorado Sun wrote about his alleged candidacy. The post office Alex Burness’ article was captioned “Heidi Ganahl almost says she’s running for governor,” while the sun Jesse Paul wrote in his unaffiliated newsletter that “[Ganahl] might as well already be in the 2022 race to challenge Governor Jared Polis.

The HCC Podcast features hours of video and audio interviews Ganahl conducted with dozens of people across the state, including other public and elected officials. Most interviews last about 20 minutes and alternate between the subject’s response to Ganahl’s questions and their own thoughts or positions on the topic at hand. As Ganahl explains in her initial video, she and her team traveled the state with a custom recording studio trailer, churning out podcast episodes in locations all over Colorado.

Ganahl is no stranger to statewide touring. In March 2016, while running for her current position as regent, Ganahl embarked on the Colorado Moms Tour.

The band sponsoring this tour? Another 501c4 nonprofit founded by Ganahl, Moms Fight Back.

The logistics of producing the HCC can be difficult, as evidenced by emails, obtained via a public records request, between Ganahl’s Colorful Colorado team and an interviewee, the Mesa County Public Health Director. , Jeff Kuhr.

HCC intended to tape four episodes at Grand Junction in late July. The plan, as explained in emails from Grand Junction brand consultant Matthew Breman, was to park the HCC trailer in the Enstrom’s Toffee lot and have all the guests there, including the CEO of Kuhr and Enstrom, Doug Simons.

In addition to being a West Slope institution, the Enstrom candy-making family is also involved in politics through former candidate Rick Enstrom, who also ran various independent political groups who have paid money in Colorado Republican causes.

Unfortunately, landslides caused by wildfires in Glenwood Canyon closed Interstate 70, forcing Ganahl and his crew to reschedule in August. Breman was unable to attend this taping but told Kuhr that Bobbie Daniel, who is running for Mesa County Commissioner, will be there. Both Daniel and Breman sit on the board of another conservative 501c4, the Colorado Woman’s Alliance.

In addition to logistical information, Breman’s email to Kuhr’s staff at Mesa County Public Health included the following statement:

“Again, the podcasts are not about politics but about people who help make Colorado what it is and have a great story to tell.”

Ganahl’s HCC podcast team also asked interviewees to sign a standard release form granting the podcast the rights to edit and use the HCC interviews as they see fit.

“I agree to be interviewed or otherwise participate in the Heidi’s Colorado Colorful Podcast (hereinafter referred to as the “Podcast”) and to assign the rights to the audio recording(s) made of me as part of the podcast to Heidi’s Colorful Colorado, a Colorado non-profit corporation. I further agree to permit the editing, rerecording, duplication, reproduction, copyright, sale, display, broadcast and/or distribution of said recording(s).I waive any right to inspect or approve the completed audio recording(s), photograph(s) or print(s) which may be used in conjunction with the Podcast or to the eventual use it might be applied. I further agree that Colorful Colorado by Heidi has the right to use my name, likeness and performance in the podcast to publicize or advertise the podcast.

-Legal release language for Heidi’s Colorful Colorado podcast interviewees [emphasis added]

The podcast’s 501c4 designation means it could use the interviews and other content in many ways that would benefit the Heidi for Governor effort.

The campaign is already benefiting from the publication by HCC of a video and some photographs of Ganahl posing with various Coloradans.

The campaign launch video ad uses footage from an HCC “Highlights” moviewhich is comprised entirely of glamorous slow-motion shots set to music.

Content sharing by Ganahl entities overturns the common practice of content creation and publication campaigns that independent groups then use for their own advertisements. This method, in which campaigns make content freely available to the public, avoids the possibility of material violating campaign finance rules limiting the amount of independent groups, such as 501c4 “welfare” groups, that can contribute. or support a campaign. political campaign.

Depending on a variety of factors, including production cost and rights to use the video and images, any media created by the HCC Podcast and then used by the campaign could potentially qualify as an in-kind contribution by the association to countryside.

HCC could also decide to run a themed ad on a topic that became a flashpoint during the campaign. Given the wide variety of issues covered in the 61 podcast interviews, HCC has plenty of material to work with.

When asked if there had been any discussion of HCC’s interview of Mesa County Public Health Director Kuhr potentially being used for political purposes, a spokesperson provided the following statement by email :

Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) is not aware that material from a recorded podcast would be used for political purposes. We were approached for the interview with the understanding that the podcast featured Colorado residents enjoying our great state. It was communicated to us at the time of the interview that the podcast was not political.

…

MCPH welcomes opportunities to speak about public health outside of the traditional programmatic approach. After researching the podcast and the descriptions given by the individual [who reached out to MCPH about doing the interview], on the website and other documents we found, we agreed to the interview because it aligned with our intent to promote public health. Our conversation for Heidi’s Colorful Colorado podcast focused on Colorado; and challenges faced by residents, especially in Western Colorado, as well as improving the overall quality of life for all residents. We submitted a photo of Jeff Kuhr, our Executive Director fishing outdoors and enjoying all that Colorado has to offer, consistent with our understanding of the purpose and intent of the podcast.

Screenshot of the Heidi For Governor campaign website

To be clear, it does not appear that any of the HCC interviews have been used for political purposes thus far, but given the campaign’s use of other HCC media, as well as the podcast text, It’s a possibility.

The Heidi for Governor campaign also uses at least one photograph from the HCC website.

The background image for the campaign’s “Take Action” page can also be found on the “Take Action” page.Heidi through Coloradoalong with several other photos of Ganahl engaging in conversation with people at scenic locations in Colorado, such as a cattle ranch and outside the state capitol.

Screenshot of Heidi’s Colorful Colorado podcast website

At least two other images, neither of which are publicly visible, are hosted on the campaign website and use the same “HCC_BTSDayOne” filename as the “Take Action” image.

Even if none of the podcast interviews end up in campaign material, the high production value of the effort could serve another purpose: spending big bucks on a technically apolitical project. The more money the HCC spends on the podcast, the more it is allowed to spend on political campaign activities, as long as political work is not its “primary purpose”.

the Colorado time recorder asked Ganahl three questions on the nonprofit HCC podcast: Was it created to support his campaign for governor? Will any of the podcast interview audio or video be used by the campaign or another group to support their campaign? And does the campaign purchase material from the nonprofit podcast? Ganahl has yet to respond to the email request. This article will be updated with any response received.

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