A new political action committee that says it is trying to keep special interests out of Lawrence City Hall has received the bulk of its funding from a Lawrence businessman that last year sought a $5 million deal from city commissioners.
According to a financial report filed at the Douglas County Clerk’s office, IMpac — a new political action committee seeking to raise money for April’s Lawrence City Commission election — has received more than half of its funding from Community Wireless Communications Co.
Community Wireless Communications Co. is run by Joshua Montgomery, who also is the founder of Lawrence Freenet.
Last January, Montgomery and Freenet unsuccessfully lobbied city commissioners to co-sign a $4.9 million loan to allow the Internet service provider to expand in the city.
Community Wireless Communications Co. is the for-profit company that is paid to run the day-to-day operations of the not-for-profit Lawrence Freenet.
The director of IMpac — which stands for Independent Moderate Political Action Committee — said people should not perceive the financial donations as a sign that the PAC was working as the political arm of the Internet company.
“This is not a show horse for Lawrence Freenet by any means,” said Jacob Beaumont, director of IMpac.
Montgomery also said he was not supporting the PAC in an effort to win favor for his company.
“I just believed in Jacob and his mission and he asked for some donations, and we’ve been generous,” Montgomery said. “That is pretty much it.”
Freenet, though, still has business before the Lawrence City Commission. The company has several contracts with the city that allow Freenet to use city right of way for below-market rates. The company also asked the city to allow Freenet to place wireless Internet equipment on downtown light poles, a proposal that city staff members have previously recommended against.
According to the financial reports, Community Wireless provided the PAC with its first donation.
The company had donated $750 to the PAC prior to the Jan. 1 reporting deadline. That represented more than half of the $1,440 the PAC raised during the period. Community Wireless also has provided the PAC with two months worth of office space, which is an in-kind donation valued at $270 per month.
Some members of the PAC said the relationship with the company created concerns.
C.J. Brune, who is listed a member of the PAC’s advisory board, said the relationship potentially could be a “big problem.” But Brune said she thinks the issue may soon become moot. She said she expects the PAC to soon cease operations because of difficulty in finding other donors, and because the group is falling short of its stated goal of finding three candidates to endorse for the upcoming City Commission elections.
Brune said if the group doesn’t disband, she likely would drop out of the organization. She said the group has been promoting itself as a coalition for moderates.
“I’m absolutely not moderate,” said Brune, a social activist who has worked with members of Lawrence’s anarchist community.
Beaumont stopped short of saying the PAC would disband, but he acknowledged that it did need to improve its finances. Thus far, the group has endorsed one candidate.
Candidate Aron Cromwell received the group’s endorsement and a $500 donation prior to the Jan. 1 reporting period.
“I’m not part of the inner circle of the group to know where the money is coming from,” Cromwell said. “I just saw that we shared some common goals. But frankly, I haven’t heard anything formally from IMpac for quite some time.”