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New pro-business political action committee enters city commission race, fueled by $5,000 donation

March 19, 2013


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  • For years, the world of Lawrence City Commission campaigning has run on $50, $100 or sometimes even $500 donations from supporters.

    A $5,000 donation hasn’t been the norm. But it is reality in the 2013 Lawrence City Commission race.

    A new pro-business political action committee — Lawrence United — entered the campaign scene over the weekend with a mass mailing supporting candidates Rob Chestnut, Jeremy Farmer and Terry Riordan.

    Campaign finance records show the group received its support from a host of Lawrence business interests, led by a $5,000 donation from longtime Lawrence business Penny’s Concrete.

    “I was asked to contribute to the group, and I did because I feel like it really is about the importance of promoting the need for jobs,” said Bill Penny, an owner of Penny’s Concrete. “I’m absolutely not ashamed to help people have jobs. It makes people feel good about themselves and feel productive in their society.”

    Lawrence attorney Casey Meek serves as the chair and treasurer of the new group. He said the organization plans to create a board of directors in the near future that will keep the PAC active for future local elections. He said the group will work to register new voters, attract “young and enthusiastic” candidates for local office and work to promote a better business environment in Lawrence.

    “We’re trying to make Lawrence as attractive as possible to outside businesses and make it as easy as possible for local businesses to stay up and running,” Meek said.

    Political action committees aren’t entirely new in local Lawrence political races. In the 1990s, a group called Progressive Lawrence actively campaigned for candidates that it thought would give neighborhoods more of a voice in the City Hall process. And candidates frequently receive donations from political organizations related to various building trades unions, police and firefighter organizations, and other such groups.

    But the entry of Lawrence United into the City Commission race did have several political observers talking this week, in part because of how much money the group raised in a short period of time. From Feb. 11 to Feb. 13, the group raised $7,500. To put that in perspective, that was more money than four of the six candidates in the field raised during the entire primary election fundraising period that ran from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14.

    State law limits individuals or businesses from giving more than $500 to any one candidate during any one election season. There are no limits on how much individuals or businesses can contribute to a political action committee, said Donna Williams, office manager for the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.

    Political action committees can spend as much as they want on their own advertising that advocates for particular candidates, as long as they don’t coordinate that advertising with the candidates, Williams said.

    A mailer that went out last weekend by Lawrence United urged voters to support Chestnut, Farmer and Riordan in the upcoming April 2 City Commission elections. The mailer didn’t delve into any specific issues but rather its main message was it supports “candidates who support creating a sustainable, vibrant and growing economy.”

    Riordan, though, said it was Doug Gaumer, president of the Lawrence operations of Intrust Bank and the chair of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, who approached him on behalf of the PAC. He said Gaumer told him the PAC was separate from the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

    “He said its goal is to create sustainable jobs for people in Lawrence, and I said that is one of my goals too,” said Riordan, a Lawrence physician who finished third in last month’s primary election.

    Riordan said the group gave his campaign a $100 donation. He said he was unaware the group was going to do the mass mailing, but he said he appreciated it. He said he thinks the role of PACs in local elections may grow in the future.

    “I don’t have any problems with the PACs as long as they are supportive and open about what their support is about,” Riordan said. “I hope they don’t become as important as they are at the state and Congressional level, because I do think they have too much influence there.”

    An expenditure report filed with the Douglas County Clerk’s office shows both Gaumer and his wife, Kathy, a Lawrence physician, each donated $150 to the PAC, and a consulting firm that appears to be based out of their home donated another $200.

    In total, the group attracted donations from seven donors during its three-day period. They included $1,000 from Lawrence-based Paul Werner Architects. Werner has been a lead architect for the proposed Rock Chalk Park sports village, that includes a proposed $25 million city recreation center. Other contributors included: $500 from Lawrence-based O’Malley Beverage Company; and $500 from OSS Solutions Inc., a Lawrence-based consulting firm.

    Meek said the group has continued to raise additional money and plans to do more advertising before the April 2 election.

    Candidates who didn’t receive an endorsement said they thought Lawrence United’s entrance into the race would add a new element to the campaign.

    “As a candidate, it doesn’t worry me too much,” said Leslie Soden, the sixth-place finisher in the primary. “The trouble I’ve been having is voters have been asking me who are the chamber candidates, who are the liberal candidates. This actually helps because now I have an answer. I can say these are the candidates who have been endorsed by a pro-development group.”


    Richard Heckler 1 year ago

    This new PAC allows a means by which to circumvent previous campaign spending regulations. And can put out rhetoric true or not for the candidates with or without their approval. This is very stinky politics.

    Why would any candidate participate? Not a good decision.


    Meatwad 1 year ago

    Polarization is not helping Lawrence. Some of the PACs candidates might be people who do want what's best for Lawrence and not only what the developers want (sometimes they coincide, sometimes they don't). But now those 3 candidates are labeled and so some people are going to avoid voting for them just because they think they are going to be all about helping the big developers. It's kind of a shame, but the label makes me wonder if they can be trusted.


    irvan moore 1 year ago

    nice job on the editorial in the paper today (Thursday) ljw


    btsflk 1 year ago

    Farmer has not "worked wonders" with Just Food. That opinion probably depends on wheteher you are looking at it from the outside, or as a client.


    toe 1 year ago

    Time for a little red in the blue town of Lawrence. Expect money from out of city to come pouring in. The pro-business PAC had better not be a tax the suckers PAC. No business can thrive in a tax hungry town like Lawrence. To control that beast, you need to starve it.


    Carol Bowen 1 year ago

    Polarization ruins our sense of community. Our commissioners should represent and support all the components that make a viable community where we work, live, go to school, and play. Vote for the candidates or combination of candidates you think will do this.

    I agree with Catalano. What are the issues?

    "Why put Jeremy on the hot seat? Put Lawrence United on the spot instead and have them explain why a) they apparently gave Riordan a heads-up, but no mention of providing the same courtesy to Chestnut or Farmer, and b) what criteria they think these three candidates have in common that Amyx, Criqui and Soden don't share...I thought all six candidates were pretty much on board for creating/promoting a "sustainable, vibrant and growing economy.”"


    Richard Heckler 1 year ago

    Lawrence does NOT need big spending political action committees providing unlimited amounts of cash to further corrupt local politics thank you.


    Richard Heckler 1 year ago

    Who does the best job of directing local economic growth?

    Zillions of tax dollars have been given out and taxpayers are still waiting..... Corporate welfare is NOT paying back.


    Bob Forer 1 year ago

    Deltaman, the kid doesn't have a position on anything. He's undecided on most issues. We don't need a nice guy. We need leadership.


    deltaman 1 year ago

    Not that I really care, but why do you care given your recent rants that you are retiring from your Government job and moving out of the State. But to attack Jeremy Farmer, as many progressives have on the Board, is simply incredible. The young man has counseled troubled youth, worked wonders with Just Foods, and seems to be doing an effective job of attracting liberals and conservatives in supporting him. Why wouldn't you want a candidate with that skill set? Maybe he can bring both side together to find an acceptsble middle ground on issues, rather than it having to be either your position or conservatives position? Why are you and other libs that blog so angry at those who think different than you?


    UneasyRider 1 year ago

    Have said from the beginning that Jeremy Farmer was a bought and paid for flunky. This endorsement simply proves that fact.


    UneasyRider 1 year ago

    This PAC is nothing more than the C of C lying BS as usual. Any candidate they support is nothing more than a bought and paid for chamber flunky. Don't vote for anyone they endorse.


    KansasLiberal 1 year ago

    "He said Gaumer told him the PAC was separate from the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce."

    Yeah, right. When I read the headline for this article I had a hunch that the word new should be in quotations, and now I know that I was correct. This "new" pro-business PAC is just more of the same old CoC nonsense that has been fleecing the taxpayers for decades.


    gatekeeper 1 year ago

    All this B.S. about the liberals trying to stop growth makes me laugh. This isn't about liberals trying to stop all growth and development. It's about everyone electing a city commission that creates smart growth. Growth that really creates jobs and brings businesses to Lawrence. What we have now are a bunch of self-serving *sshats that give their developer buddies pretty much anything they want. How many jobs have been created by the "development" that happened in Lawrence in the last decade? Compton's buildings downtown aren't creating jobs. What has Fritzel done to create good, long-term jobs in Lawrence? They've gotten lots of tax breaks and the people of Lawrence have gotten nothing but higher taxes. I want a commission that wants to bring industry to this town, not more apartments and an overpriced rec center that most in Lawrence will never even get a chance to use.

    Follow the money folks, follow the money.


    Richard Heckler 1 year ago

    All candidates want to create jobs. The Chamber choices have been saying this for 30 years. Chamber choices cannot get the job done. We live the documented evidence.

    30 years of tax dollars have been given out and taxpayers are still waiting..... Corporate welfare is NOT paying back.


    Alpenglow 1 year ago

    Stunning and sad how everyone wants to throw this newly formed group under the bus for their sole intention of promoting candidates who want to CREATE JOBS in this community. Why is this group so threatening? No wonder its so difficult to find high paying jobs in Lawrence. All the naysayers here are why Lawrence has such a rotten reputation in our region. Where can I send a donation to this group?????


    4chewnut 1 year ago

    Why doesn't Farmer step up and address this issue? And why not also explain his theological training in the Assembly of Gods? That's some pretty conservative stuff. Would fit with this PAC.


    Pork_Ribs 1 year ago

    Bottom line is that cities/states that are run by liberals are failing. From Detroit Michigan, Chicago, Philadelphia, Charlotte, LA...on and on and on. The smaller the cities get...the worse it gets. You can cry all you want about the details and what you don't like about conservatives. The bottom line is in the data. Through the tough economy the last few years...liberal cities are failing. Detroit is on the verge of being taken over by the state of MI. The most miserable cities in America are liberal. Pro business/conservative leadership promotes job creation and ultimately leads to communities that are not failing. Very little research will show you that the data does not lie. You may hate 'em...but an open mind will show you the truth. The numbers don't lie.


    btsflk 1 year ago

    Had already decided I wouldn't vote for those three. Just more of the status quo. This just confirms it.

    Would sure like to see that pattern broken, but don't see that happening.


    Richard Heckler 1 year ago

    In essence Lawrence United intends to drown the community in reckless spent campaign dollars. This is a grand display of disdain for the fiscal conservative/ fiscally responsible spending philosophy.

    And will inundate the Lawrence voters with word bites and sound bites that may or may not be true again backed by the largest spending ever in the history of city commission campaigns.

    If any of the three were not contacted prior to the mailing and do not want to be included an UNTRUTH has thus been committed.... in the first mailing. An ethics violation for openers speaks volumes.

    Lawrence needs new thinking NOT more of the same say that's been in place for the past 25 years. Where are those great paying jobs and new economic growth? Nowhere to be seen.

    Lawrence,Kansas... home to a never ending tax dollar money hole and stinky water. The more Lawrence expands the larger the tax dollar money hole. Why?

    The community has never stopped expanding long enough to catch up with the ever expanding cost of paying for the helter skelter growth decisions. In other words Lawrence has never been in a position where new growth is paying for itself.

    Unfriendly to business and homeowners.

    There are plenty of taxpayer assets such as streets,sidewalks,water lines,sewer lines that need rehab which could create plenty of employment for two years at least. New infrastructure only adds miles and miles and miles of NEW tax dollar responsibility with no means of paying for it.


    Steven Gaudreau 1 year ago

    Bozo, I disagree. The two agendas are similar in that they each promote their own belief, not what's best for our community. You may think the Liberal no growth Pac was good for our community because that is your belief but in others eyes, no growthers agendas are harmful to the future of Lawrence. I would like to see a balance but in politics, there is no middle ground. I also believe Bill Penney to be one of the most upright and honest businessman this city has around and I know this from personal experience. I also like Terry personally but would not consider him to be pro business but very civic minded. Terry will be no friend to the contractors/building community.


    ignati5 1 year ago

    Some of us are wondering whether this PAC includes Jeremy to promote or kill his candidacy. It would be a Machiavellian dirty trick by the Chamber, but who would put it past them? He claims privately not to have been consulted about his inclusion beforehand and that he is not beholden to the Chamber - we eagerly await a public statement to that effect, and soon. Without it, he loses significant support from "Progressive" voters, most of which is probably gone by now anyway, And if he is naive enough to believe in his campaign that the Chamber is just interested in the common good through a coalition, imagine how they will manipulate him if he is elected. The man's heart is in the right place, and he will one day make a fine elected official, but probably not this time around.


    UneasyRider 1 year ago

    This PAC makes my voting choices easier. I'll simply be sure to "NOT" vote for any of their 3 bought and paid for stooges.


    Alceste 1 year ago

    Here is a letter Alceste was given that was quietly written by a member of this PAC:

    The Honorable Secretary of Agriculture Washington, D.C.

    Dear Sir:

    I have been evacuated from the New Orleans area, because the floods destroyed my 50-year-old mobile home and my beat-up car. I thought I might go into business to supplement my welfare check. I ended up here in Lawrence, Kansas.

    My friend over at Wells, Iowa, received a check for $1,000 from you fellows for NOT raising hogs. Right now, I am getting extra help from the government and the Red Cross while I am displaced but, when that stops, I want to go into the "not-raising-hogs" business.

    What I want to know is this. In your opinion, what is the best kind of farm not to raise hogs on, and what is the best breed of hogs not to raise?

    I want to be certain that I approach this endeavor in keeping with all governmental policies. I would prefer not to raise razorbacks, but if that is not a good breed not to raise, then I will just as gladly not raise Yorkshires or another specified breed.

    As I see it, the hardest part of this program will be that of keeping an accurate inventory of how many hogs I have not raised.

    My friend out in Iowa is very happy about the future of the business. He has been raising hogs for more than twenty years. He says the best he ever made on them was $422 back in 1968, until this year, when he got your check for $1000 for not raising 50 hogs.

    If I get $1000 for not raising 50 hogs, will I get $2000 for not raising 100 hogs? I plan to operate on a small scale at first, holding myself down to about 4000 hogs not raised, which will mean about $80,000 the first year.

    Another thing, these hogs I will not raise will not eat 100,000 bushels of corn. I understand that you also pay farmers for NOT raising corn and wheat. Will I qualify for payments for not raising wheat and corn not to feed the 4000 hogs I am not going to raise?

    In addition, I am considering the "not-milking-cows" business. Please, send me any information you have on that, too.

    In view of these circumstances, you understand that I will be totally unemployed, and I plan to file for unemployment and food stamps.

    Be assured your party will have my vote in the coming election.

    Patriotically Yours, Ima Taker P.S. Please, notify me when you are giving out more free cheese. I like that stuff.


    Alceste 1 year ago

    "....that's why they call it The American Dream......".....YOU have to be asleep to believe it.....".

    "The game is rigged. The game is fixed. It's a club and YOU'RE NOT IN IT!" "You have owners":

    (video clip below is for adult viewing. Parents: Supervise your children!)


    Bob Forer 1 year ago

    “I was asked to contribute to the group, and I did because I feel like it really is about the importance of promoting the need for jobs,” said Bill Penny, an owner of Penny’s Concrete.

    What a lot of unadulterated nonsense. Yeah, Mr. Penny reached deep into his pocket because he is a good, decent and generous citizen and wants more jobs for the folks.

    Yeah, right. He owns a concrete company and stands to make a pile of cash on new development.

    Why can't these guys just be honest about their motivation. It is so transparent, and the lies are so bad as to be insulting.


    oneeye_wilbur 1 year ago

    Pro development? Lawrence hasn't seen first class development since the 60s. The Malls at 23rd was a big deal.

    The professional developers are not in Lawrence. Lawrence does not have any local commercial developers that can build entire shopping centers of class. Development in Lawrence is piecemeal and only a handful of local "builders aka developers" are allowed to participate. The city needs to be redeveloped from wakarusa to the far east. Planning is a disaster. The entire east side of town is shambles. What happened to the grand plan from Placemakers, to build new at 19th and Haskell?
    All of the junk on 6th street hardly classifies as new urbanism as Sue Hack promoted.

    I do not want Chestnut back because what can he point to as achievement when he served before? Riordan and Farmer have not put forth any NEW ideas.

    This election is Status Quo!


    Carol Bowen 1 year ago

    Why would it be OK for Progressive Lawrence to support candidates and not OK for Lawrence United to support candidates? There should be more groups supporting candidates. The only improvement I could see would be a group that supports viable candidates regardless of their positions.


    kuguardgrl13 1 year ago

    Well this certainly influences in whole I'll be voting for. Now if we could get similar articles on the school board election...


    Patricia Davis 1 year ago

    No to Farmer, Chestnut and Riordan. Unless you like what the last commission did to us.


    Number_1_Grandma 1 year ago

    Finally, LJW has connected the dots. Money from bankers, Realtors, Architects, pro construction people and people in general who stand to make more money by having status quo, rubber stamp any development are hiding in these PAC's. These people have never seen a development they didn't like (Money).

    As Paul Harvey would say "And now you know the rest of the story".

    Lawrence voters: Send a message to this kind money laundering through PAC's by voting NO against Chestnut, Farmer and Riordan. And if these candidates have any class or worth a hoot, they wouldn't take any money from these PAC's and disassociate themselves from this kind of bribery! NOBODY gets something for nothing. Payment comes when they sit on city commission in the form of voting for use of tax dollars to these pro development people!!


    jhawkinsf 1 year ago

    The voters of Lawrence, or the lack thereof, will get the government they deserve.


    just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year ago

    The only thing new about this is how brazen this group is in essentially admitting that they are out to buy city commission candidates because it'll be good for their bottom line.


    Katara 1 year ago

    FTA: “As a candidate, it doesn’t worry me too much,” said Leslie Soden, the sixth-place finisher in the primary. “The trouble I’ve been having is voters have been asking me who are the chamber candidates, who are the liberal candidates. This actually helps because now I have an answer. I can say these are the candidates who have been endorsed by a pro-development group.”

    This thinking is why politics is the way it is now. Too many people, including Leslie, are more concerned about slapping an easy label on others rather than take the time to find out what each candidate want to accomplish.

    I want people to be informed and have the ability to make informed decisions in our elections. Sound bites and labels don't do that.


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