Lawrence City Commission candidate Stan Rasmussen is seeking to assure voters that he’s not allowing several thousand dollars of campaign donations from outside of Lawrence and from a politically active conservative activist to influence his campaign.
Letters to the editor and campaign murmurings in recent days had started to focus on $4,500 worth of donations that Rasmussen’s campaign received from Ivan Crossland Jr., his family members and related companies owned by the Crossland family. The Crossland family has been active in supporting conservative causes.
As of the most recent campaign expenditure reports, the $4,500 in donations represented a little more than 20 percent of all the donations raised by Rasmussen.
Rasmussen said the donations from the Crosslands were the result of a relationship he had formed with Ivan Crossland, Jr. while they were classmates in the 2007 Leadership Kansas class. Rasmussen also developed a relationship with Patrick Crossland, who also donated to Rasmussen’s campaign, when Rasmussen served as the state program chair for Leadership Kansas, a program run by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.
“They aren’t active in this race,” Rasmussen said of the Crossland family. “I doubt they even know the issues in this race. They haven’t talked to me about them. I think he really was just trying to help a classmate.”
Rasmussen, the second-place finisher in the primary election, said he sent out an e-mail in late 2014 when he decided to run for the City Commission. He sent the e-mail to his Leadership Kansas friends and others. Ivan Crossland, Jr. called shortly thereafter and asked Rasmussen if he could donate to his campaign. In total Crossland family members or companies controlled by Crossland family members made nine donations, each for the $500 maximum allowed by law. All the donations were made during the late 2014 reporting period. The family hasn’t made any donations during the 2015 reporting period, and Rasmussen said the new campaign finance reports that are due Monday won’t have any contributions from the Crosslands.
“I hadn’t talked to him in several years,” Rasmussen said. “We don’t have a close relationship.”
Several other out-of-town donations on Rasmussen's campaign finance report also came from Leadership Kansas classmates, Rasmussen said.
Some Lawrence residents had expressed concerns after they began looking at Rasmussen’s campaign finance reports. Geri Shoger said she was concerned that statewide political activists were starting to shift their attention to local elections.
“Local elections should be local,” said Shoger, who wrote a letter to the editor. “We shouldn’t have that big of an influence coming from Missouri or Arkansas. These people don’t know our issues.”
The Crossland family is primarily based in southeast Kansas, where it runs a successful construction company. But some of the donations to Rasmussen also came from Crossland companies that are based in Missouri and Arkansas.
Rasmussen said he did not want voters to think that his acceptance of the campaign contributions meant that he agreed with all the political positions espoused by the Crosslands.
“I think we have different views on things,” Rasmussen said. “I’m not sure what Ivan’s views are on issues because we haven’t talked about them. He has a reputation of being very conservative, but I don’t see his views influencing me more than anybody else. I’m my own man.”
Crossland’s construction companies aren’t generally large players in the Lawrence construction market. But over the past couple years the company has bid on a pair of high-profile projects. Crossland was the second-lowest bidder for the $10.5 million recreation center at Rock Chalk Park. More recently, a Crossland company was the low bidder for the approximately $50 million wastewater treatment plan. But city commissioners rejected that bid because it came in about $5 million above engineer’s estimates. Commissioners agreed to rebid the project.
Rasmussen said he wasn’t aware that Crossland had bid on city projects when he accepted the donations. He said it would create no problems for him as a commissioner.
“They are not calling me and asking for my opinion or anything like that,” Rasmussen said. “I haven’t had any contact with Ivan since he sent me the checks.
“I’m not elected by my donors. I’m elected by the citizens of Lawrence, and that is who I will be representing, if I serve on the City Commission.”
Other candidates for the three at-large seats on the commission are Stuart Boley, Matthew Herbert, Terry Riordan, Bob Schumm and Leslie Soden. The election is April 7.
• Find the latest on the Lawrence City Commission and school board elections, plus candidate profiles and questionnaires, at LJWorld.com/vote2015