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Inside the Pale Horse Playbook

Colorado Activists Seek to Replicate Pale Horse’s Texas Model

A group of activists in Colorado, including a former Republican candidate for Governor, have turned to the controversial Texas-based political consulting firm Pale Horse Strategies to create what one critic described as a “profiteering shadow party” in their state.

As first reported by Heidi Beedle with the Colorado Times Record, Heidi Ganahl- a businesswoman and former University of Colorado Regent who was the Republican nominee for Governor of Colorado in 2022- assembled a group of donors to build political infrastructure in Colorado. As part of their efforts, Ganahl organized a Zoom meeting to discuss their plan. A video of the Zoom meeting was leaked on Facebook by an anonymous user posting under the alias “Paris Green” with the caption, “Heidi Ganahl attempts to organize a profiteering shadow party.”

In the 36-minute video, one of the prospective Colorado donors discussed how they were turning to a “template” created by the political consulting firm Pale Horse Strategies as they were executing their strategy in Colorado. That donor, “Buz” Koelbel, specifically cited Tim Dunn and the Wilks family as providing the financial backing to create the Pale Horse machine. Koelbel stated that Dunn and the Wilks family “spent $10 million trying to perfect something” and “they had created something [in Texas], made the mistakes, and learned from their lessons” in creating the template that they hoped to replicate in Colorado.

Former Texas State Representative Jonathan Stickland owns Pale Horse Strategies. The firm recently rebranded to the name “West Fort Worth Management” after coming under fire from members of the State Republican Executive Committee and other prominent Republicans after it was discovered that Pale Horse Strategies had hosted prominent white nationalist and antisemitic commentator Nick Fuentes at its office for over six hours late last year. 

As recently reported by The Texas Voice, Dunn played an instrumental role in Beto O’Rourke’s first election to Congress by donating $500,000 to a SuperPAC that helped O’Rourke’s campaign. The Wilks family are the controlling shareholders of ProFrac Holding Corp., a company that promotes liberal Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) and Diversity and Inclusion (“DI”) in their business. An “ESG Progress Report” posted to ProFrac Holding Corp.’s website specifically cited the United Nations’ “sustainable development goals” as part of its ESG and DI programs. 

The Pale Horse template described by Ganahl and others in the recording gives a close look at how Pale Horse has built a stable of what may appear to voters to be seemingly independent organizations. In reality, the groups are part of a connected network that relies on coordinated messaging and infrastructure.

One of the first organizations implemented by Ganahl and her allies was a “messaging machine” called “Rocky Mountain Voice,” which Ganahl said was modeled after the website Texas Scorecard. A podcast hosted by Ganahl is featured on the Rocky Mountain Voice website. (Editor’s Note: The Rocky Mountain Voice is not affiliated or associated with The Texas Voice in any way.)

Ganahl also described how she planned to build a consulting firm modeled after Pale Horse Strategies, which she called “Red Horse.” The purpose of Red Horse is to “create a centralized place where we provide all the support and services” so that “each individual group and effort doesn’t have to invest in their own building of staff and technology.” 

In describing how Pale Horse and its network of organizations operates, Ganahl said, “In some cases, they have PACs that help candidates, but they have over 50 of these groups that are focused on issues across Texas. And the cool thing about this is these groups don’t need a big staff. They may have an executive director, but they get their support and services from Pale Horse that has a team of 50 to 60 people in Fort Worth that provide all the support. Whether it’s marketing compliance, you name it, polling data, whatever it is, and then they can go out and spend their resources they raise because they all do small donor investments, with the people that care about that issue on this specific issue and making a difference that way.”

For data, Ganahl said they would rely on Nucleus, a company run by Brad Parscale. Best known for his role in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, Texas Monthly has reported that Parscale now lives in Midland and is involved in a business venture with Tim Dunn. According to Ganahl, Nucleus can provide data for “about $50 a month” to groups that are a part of their network. 

Ganahl’s presentation includes local groups that benefit from the infrastructure created by Pale Horse. Among these groups is the True Texas Project, which has chapters throughout Texas that frequently feature speakers from other organizations within the Pale Horse network. Leaders of the True Texas Project have frequently made comments critical of Donald Trump as well as comments that are racially charged and antisemitic

In discussing launching their own network of organizations, Ganahl said, “The first one we absolutely are going to start with is Coloradans for Fiscal Responsibility.” That organization appears to be modeled after Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and will feature a legislative scorecard similar to the one that Texans for Fiscal Responsibility publishes. Ganhal also discussed the creation of a group called the Colorado Family Project, which is similar to the Texas Family Project. 

The Texas groups described in Ganahl’s presentation, such as Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and Texas Family Project, have actively participated in the current Republican primary election. The advertising campaigns undertaken by these organizations have been criticized as deceptive, misleading, and bigoted

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