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Business-oriented political action committee gets big donations, endorses Chestnut, Farmer, Riordan in City Commission race

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The finish line is in sight, and it seems as if the race for the Lawrence City Commission is about to kick into another gear.

Last weekend, Lawrence residents saw a pretty clear sign that the competition is about to heat up: Campaign spending by a new pro-business political action committee.

A new PAC, called Lawrence United, sent out a postcard mailing to residents during the weekend endorsing three of the six candidates for Lawrence City Commission — Rob Chestnut, Jeremy Farmer and Terry Riordan.

The one campaign finance report the group has filed so far shows the PAC has some fundraising chops, thanks in large part to a sizable donation from one of the city’s larger construction companies.

Penny’s Concrete — the firm owned by longtime Lawrence businessman Bill Penny — gave $5,000 to the PAC during the Jan. 1 through Feb. 14 reporting period.

The Lawrence firm of Paul Werner Architects also gave $1,000 to the organization. Werner has been in the news recently as the lead architect for the Rock Chalk Park sports village proposed for northwest Lawrence. Werner has served as the architect for many of the projects proposed and built by Thomas Fritzel, who has been the driving force behind the public-private partnership to build the Rock Chalk Park and city-owned recreation center.

The postcard mailer sent out this weekend didn’t go into any specifics on any issue, including the recreation center. Its main message was it supports “candidates who support creating a sustainable, vibrant and growing economy.”

Penny’s Concrete is the type of business that benefits from a variety of development — everything from new streets to new building construction. For whatever it is worth, and as we previously have reported, Penny has been a business partner with Fritzel on past deals, including a struggling housing development in Junction City that created some headlines recently.

In total, the PAC raised $7,700 in the reporting period. It received donations from five others: $500 from Lawrence-based O’Malley Beverage; $500 from OSS Solutions Inc., a Lawrence-based wireless consulting company; $150 from Doug Gaumer, president of the Lawrence operations of Intrust Bank and also the current chair of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce; $150 from Kathy Gaumer, a Lawrence physician and wife of Doug; $200 from HKG Consulting, a medical consulting business that, based on the address of the business, appears to be run by the Gaumers.

According to paperwork at the Kansas Secretary of State’s office, United Lawrence set up a limited liability company to run the new organization. Casey Meek, a Lawrence attorney, is listed as resident agent of the company and also is listed as treasurer of the political action committee. The company’s articles of incorporation indicated the organization has a board of directors, but a document isn’t yet on file with the secretary of state’s office listing those directors. But I’ll give Meek a call today to see if he can disclose those members.

Political action committees aren’t unheard of in Lawrence City Commission politics. 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.

Nonetheless, the mailing had candidates in the race talking. Political observers are now waiting to see if Chestnut, Farmer and Riordan start running more coordinated campaigns.

I’m not sure they will. The trio produces some interesting political mathematics to contemplate. Farmer finished second in the primary, Riordan finished third and Chestnut finished fourth. In this election, only the top three win a seat. So for all three of the Lawrence United candidates to win election, they’ll have to unseat the primary's top finisher, multi-term incumbent Mike Amyx.

History shows that knocking the winner of the primary out of the top three spots in the general election is difficult to do. In the approximately 20 years I’ve covered City Commission elections, I remember it happening only once. If that trend holds true, the fight for the final spot may very well come down to a battle between two of the Lawrence United candidate, in which case coordinated campaigning doesn’t work too well.

And I suspect the three candidates who were not endorsed by the Lawrence United group — Amyx, Scott Criqui and Leslie Soden — will attempt to turn that into a political positive as well. Endorsements by business-oriented groups don’t always play well in some Lawrence voting circles.

But as they say on Wall Street, past results don’t guarantee future returns. And with such a light turnout for this year’s primary election, who know what may happen in the April 2 general election.

But it looks like it will be a spirited contest to the end. Officials at the Douglas County Clerk’s office told me Lawrence United is the only political action committee that has filed paperwork with the office, but such groups can form at any time.

The $7,700 raised by Lawrence United was just from the period during the primary election. Campaign finance reports for the period leading up to the April 2 general election aren’t due until next week. It will be interesting to see how active the group has been since then, and how much more campaigning Lawrence United will do in the closing days of the race.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year ago

The multi-colored flyer offers the same points that the other candidates are offering. The other candidates such as Scott Criqui and Leslie Soden also want a sustainable, vibrant and growing economy.

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.

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Richard Heckler 1 year ago

Do Lawrence taxpayers want a helter skelter planning document as the plan for the future of this fine community?

March 25,2013 item TA-12-00206 will come before the planning commission: Consider Text Amendments to the City of Lawrence Land Development Code, Chapter 20, various articles, to change the requirement that development projects be required to comply with Horizon 2020. Initiated by City Commission on 8/21/12.

This is a concern for myself and I would think for all taxpayers as stakeholders. Every community needs development guidelines with teeth in them for sake of continuity and fiscally responsible management of our tax dollars.

The quality of life in our neighborhoods and the downtown business district are important factors as well. More than half all Americans live in areas where the air is unsafe to breathe. Is this what Lawrence wants for Lawrence?

Helter Skelter development wastes tax dollars. It pulls tax dollars away from existing neighborhoods and spreads them out over new developments that increases demand on services.

Taxpayers would likely prefer to tie increased fees/taxes to when the demand is being generated. NOT cart before the horse. Historically the revenues generated by new residential housing does not pay for the many services they require from a municipality.

Failure to follow a planning document leads to degradation of our older neighborhoods and contrary to popular belief leads to higher taxes.

Residential taxes on the east side of town should not be subsidizing development on the west side of town. Eastside taxes should be revitalizing the east side..... with few exceptions.

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ShePrecedes 1 year ago

If I see an ad, if I see well-polished ads on billboards, in newspapers, or yard signs or so on, I don't vote for the person on the ad. I make a note to realize that the person on the ad has an add sense of what expenses should be.

The only commissioner candidate I have met is Riordan, likeable guy, But he has ads of which I don't approve, spending money where I do not believe it should be spent. If money is going to be spent in this community, give it to the kids who are homeless or Habitats for humanity, NOT for political candidates.

Sorry Terry, you are out,... with regards to my vote, as I see the ad at the top of the page.

But remember, I am the one who unhooked the cable box during the past election season. If you want to get your ideas across to me, you will have to seek me out. Anymore I don't use the media to assess who I vote for. I flow around and ask people that know these people about them, listening really carefully to words that are used and microexpressions of the person speaking.

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irvan moore 1 year ago

I found it interesting reading the reports on contributions to see a well know neighborhood activist who gave money to both sodden and chestnut, kinda surprised me, seems like an unlikely pair

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Richard Heckler 1 year ago

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.

Stop the neglect of taxpayer owned assets across the board! City government mismanagement is a monster disease.

There is one consequence of helter skelter aimless growth that usually goes unmentioned by the local media,city hall and elected officials - local profiteers are draining our pocketbooks and increasing our taxes.

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.

Taxpayers are still waiting........ while taxes and fees are increasing to cover the cost of preparing for the future.

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Armstrong 1 year ago

I think there is a great career opportunity for some posters here. Hysteria, conspiracy theories, this stuff is just plain comical. I see a bright future for authors of fiction/comedy in these posts.

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Richard Heckler 1 year ago

"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" -((( Just like Washington D.C. = no thanks.)))

"“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." -((( all candidates want this so why recklessly spend money on only 3 specific candidates?)))

" 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." - (( This is absolute nonsense and irresponsible for any candidate to agree to this scenario)))

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 candidates cannot coordinate the advertising how can Riordan,Farmer or Chestnut substantiate or support any type of advertising? Why should any voter support a candidate that allows an organization to speak for them? This should raise eyebrows.

I contend Lawrence,Kansas taxpayers cannot afford Lawrence United or their designated representatives Rob Chestnut, Jeremy Farmer and Terry Riordan.

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Slowponder 1 year ago

$7,700 seems pretty cheap for 3 commission seats.

I hope the trio of candidates remains bought. I just hate it when you buy a candidate and then s/he changes position. I like a bought candidate that remains bought.

Do I hear a higher bid?

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Katara 1 year ago

Meh.

Makes sense Gaumer would approach Riordan. Gaumer's wife is a OBGYN. She and Riordan have worked together a lot.

And I called it correctly on Farmer.

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WilburM 1 year ago

BTW, most successful (and probably first) PAC in Lawrence politics: 1987 OWL-PAC (John Jennings, RIP), that coordinated voted against downtown mall and helped throw out 3 incumbent commissioners.

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lhs96299 1 year ago

Collusion and corruption are strong supporters of Lawrence United.

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rubysmom 1 year ago

Sounds like "Lawrence United" is another name for the Oread Hotel Condo Owner's Association

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lawrencereporter 1 year ago

Follow the PAC money to the largest and most lucrative construction project .

Rock Chalk developer Thomas Fritzel will manage (10% fee), control, and build all of the infrastructure (i.e. sewers, water lines, parking lots, sidewalks, trails, and streets) … some on city right of way, but with the majority being infrastructure Fritzel will own for 50 years and lease to KU Athletics.

All of the above is to be paid for by city taxpayers and allowed by the current commission without competitive bids.

PAC contributor Paul Werner (Fritzel’s architect) will receive over $500,000 for infrastructure engineering plans as well as the bulk of a $925,000 fee for the city’s recreation center plans whether it is built or not – all courtesy of city taxpayers.

Contributor Bill Penny (a Fritzel partner and concrete supplier in the Junction City debacle) will supply concrete for the “city funded” streets, sidewalks, and parking lots, also the IRB funded Fritzel stadium buildings, and also an inside track for a city recreation center to be funded by city GO bonds.

Contributor Doug Gaumer of Intrust clearly recognizes that on Intrust Financial corporation’s Board of Directors is Fritzel’s father-in-law …

In spite of Schumm’s commission's unprecedented rush to get irrevocable agreements (negotiated behind closed doors) in place before this election, all did not get done. He needs votes he can control – Reardon and Farmer – and PAC “Lawrence United” contributors don’t want to risk a big pay day at taxpayer’s expense.

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seenitall 1 year ago

I have to agree with jafs, this has convinced me to vote for Amyx. I hate the way this Rock Chalk park has been "approved" (they are going to be spending my money when projections are not met- remember the parking garage with the River Front Mall, revenues fell way short of making the payment). Is anyone going to be surprised when we become aware of how screwed we are getting? It will make the cell phone towers on the Oread and the rehab of the Varsity House look like good deeds.

2

lunatic 1 year ago

Just so you know, there can be no coordination between a PAC and the candidates so to say anyone "chose" to be endorsed is totally wrong. Also, Chestnut is not a Brownback crony and to make a comment like that is just bizarre.

So a group of like minded people put private money up to support candidates with a post card and a couple of hundred dollars is a issue with some of you? I heard one LAN member demanded her name be removed from a candidates letterhead. Funny how she supported him until some evil business men did too, then he is not good enough for her support. Sounds like a knee jerk , unfounded response.

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LivedinLawrence4Life 1 year ago

Seems to me I saw a lot of LRM trucks building city streets back when the owner's wife was the city engineer. I had Penny's pour my new driveway a few years ago and I'm very happy with it. I highly recommend their option of adding granite gravel instead of limestone. That helps prevent weather related popping and cracking of concrete. Penny's doesn't do the labor, they deliver the material, so make sure your contractor doesn't add too much water.

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blindrabbit 1 year ago

Is it Penny's that has built all of the junk streets in Lawrence?? My understanding is that a combination of poor road design, improper subsurface preparation, poor workmanship and faulty materials are among the major culprits in the Lawrence poor street quality.

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Alpenglow 1 year ago

It's about time! Hopefully, this group will stifle all the NIMBY's at LAN. I think this community will soon see a turn in the tide against all the opponents of everything that comes before City Hall. I hope this group is successful. Where do I send my contribution?????

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irvan moore 1 year ago

I don't think being for or against something makes posters whiners or complainers, being informed sometimes puts citizens on different sides of issues, all growth and development is not bad and all growth and development is not good, that's one of the reasons I like mr. amyx, he seems to see both sides of the issues

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SouthernMan 1 year ago

Finally! A group of informed citizens who want to see positive things happen in what is otherwise a very negative, unhappy city. The whiners and complainers (LAN and the League of Women Voters) had better get accustomed to the new reality. Your griping opposition to literally everything has met its match. Great job Lawrence United! Where, and to whom, can one contribute?

4

seagull 1 year ago

Chad,

Regardless of whether one agrees with Chestnut, Farmer and Riordan, thanks for this interesting article. It's nice to know who and what is behind these endorsements. I tend to agree with the commenter who indicated that Farmer seems to have no ideas of his own. My personal strategy is to vote for one candidate who tends to be more pro-development and some who are more cautious. The way the state is going, Lawrence may not be able to give away tax breaks to companies much longer. Every public service will fall to local communities for funding. If businesses aren't contributing then individual tax payers will have to.

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lunatic 1 year ago

Yahoo! Where can I send a donation to Lawrence United? It is so great to see people trying to get some progress in this town instead of delay and complain.

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Phil Minkin 1 year ago

They first thought about using the name Fritzel-pac, but didn't want to be TOO obvious.

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JimRusso 1 year ago

Is yesforlawrence.org the same type of organization as Lawrence United? It seems one is advocating for an issue and the other is advocating for specific candidates. Perhaps they are not subject to the same disclosure laws, but even if they are, the absence of donor names on their page hardly constitutes a refusal to disclose names (Lawrence United doesn't even appear to have a website). Having said that, I support full disclosure at all levels for all sorts of elections.

Plus, the yesforlawrence site clearly states the bond issue will not result in a tax increase--it doesn't say that they will spend money without getting it from the taxpayer.

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UltimateGrownup 1 year ago

This article is absurd. Really? $7,700 in donations counts as "big?" Businesses and citizens have every right to donate to the candidate of their choice. This is ordinary political behavior in the open, nothing scandalous. So, if the LJWorld is doing opposition research on pro-business candidates, why can't we see some research on anti-business candidates? How about some transparency for www.yesforlawrence.org? They're out claiming that we can spend $92.5M for unclear purposes without getting the money from the taxpayer. The money comes from the Easter Bunny, they seem to suggest. And they refuse to disclose the source of their funding, based on a visit to their site.

1

irvan moore 1 year ago

heck, I like mr. amyx, I think he has earned our trust and our vote

2

rockchalker52 1 year ago

My residential address is not within the city limits, so I am not eligible to vote in the upcoming CC election. This makes me wonder why I received a mailing from the Lawrence United PAC. It represents neither time nor money well spent.

My prediction is the candidates will finish the race in the same order as they did in the primary.

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MMorton 1 year ago

I have been a supporter of Riordan's from the start and will continue to be. Child and family oriented, a quality of life focus, runs two practices--I think the man would make a fantastic city commissioner. A little sad to see him lumped in with Farmer who is all platitudes and no substance, and the Brownback crony Rob Chestnut.

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chootspa 1 year ago

So that's pretty much an endorsement for the other three candidates in my book.

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year ago

Finally some positive direction in this town.

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Taxpayer2 1 year ago

"Its main message was it supports “candidates who support creating a sustainable, vibrant and growing economy.”

Could anyone seriously object to those goals?

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