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New Lawrence PAC raises $14K as City Commission election draws near; Farmer top candidate fundraiser at $11K


The largest fundraiser during the heat of this year’s Lawrence City Commission race wasn’t a candidate. It was the newly formed political action committee Lawrence United.

According to new reports filed at the Douglas County clerk’s office, the Lawrence United group raised $14,400 during the key Feb. 15 through March 21 reporting period.

The group raised all of its money from just 10 donors. Lawrence builder Tim Stultz and Blue Jacket Ford LLC — a development company headed by construction owner Roger Johnson — both donated $5,000 apiece to the PAC.

Three companies that include Thomas Fritzel, the Lawrence businessman driving the public-private partnership for Rock Chalk Park, gave a total of $3,000 to the PAC. Lawrence-based McGrew Real Estate also donated $1,000 to the PAC. All the other donations received by the group were at the $200 level or less.
The pro-business PAC has endorsed candidates Rob Chestnut, Jeremy Farmer and Terry Riordan.

Those three candidates also did well in their individual fundraising efforts. Farmer, the political newcomer who serves as the CEO of the Lawrence food bank Just Food, raised the most money of the six candidates in the race: $11,265. Farmer finished second in last month’s primary election.

Rob Chestnut, the CFO for a Topeka publishing company, raised $8,949 during the period. Chestnut was fourth in the primary election. Only the top three vote winners in the April 2 general election will receive a seat on the commission.

City Commissioner Mike Amyx, the lone incumbent in the race, raised $5,960. The downtown barbershop owner is seeking his fifth term on the commission. He was the top vote winner in the primary.

Terry Riordan, a Lawrence pediatrician, raised $5,315 from supporters. Riordan also contributed $9,000 of his own money to the campaign. When combined with a similar loan Riordan made to his campaign during the primary season, Riordan has now invested more than $18,000 of his own money in the campaign. Riordan finished third in last month’s primary election.

Scott Criqui, an executive with Lawrence’s Trinity In-Home Care, raised $4,555. He was fifth in last month’s primary.

Leslie Soden, the owner of a Lawrence pet care business, raised $2,718. Soden was sixth in the primary election.

The Lawrence United Group gave $500 each to Chestnut, Farmer and Riordan. (Note: In a previous article, Riordan had told me the group gave him $100. But Riordan called me this weekend to tell me he had misspoken then. He quoted that number off memory and realized the amount was $500 when he looked at his records.)

But the group’s bigger impact on the race is that it has sent out several mailings urging support of the three candidates it has endorsed. Businesses and individuals are limited to making contributions of no more than $500 to any candidate during any one reporting period. Individuals and businesses, however, can make unlimited contributions to PACs, and the PACs can spend as much money as they choose advocating for a candidate.

Lawrence has had other PACs in the past. In the 1990s, a group called Progressive Lawrence campaigned for candidates who it thought would give the neighborhoods more of a voice in the City Hall process. Progressive Lawrence no longer exists, but there are other organizations that are in the political giving business. The plumbers and pipefitters union — it is based out of Wichita but has operations here — gave $200 each to Chestnut and Amyx, according to the latest reports. And the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, based out of Washington, D.C., gave $500 to Criqui. Criqui has been a frequent advocate for greater equality for the LGBT community.

But this year, Lawrence United sure appears to be the most active and best funded political organization operating in the City Commission race.

There is a question among campaign watchers, however, whether the PAC’s support will help more than it hurts. Thus far, the PAC largely has been supported by business interests in the community.

That has put some candidates at recent events emphasizing that they won’t be beholden to any special interests if elected.

“I have told people that if I have to choose a side to win an election, I would rather lose the election,” Farmer said during a forum hosted by Lawrence’s 6News last night.

Farmer went on to say that he clearly doesn’t equate taking a donation from any group as creating an expectation that he’ll vote in any particular manner, if on the commission.

“My integrity is not for sale,” Farmer said.

At the Monday night forum, Riordan said he thought some people had “overblown” the importance of the group’s endorsement. He said he consented to the endorsement because he and the group agree on the importance of creating sustainable jobs in Lawrence.

“They will have my attention in the future, but everybody else will too,” Riordan said.

Chestnut said he also supported the group’s main message on jobs, but he said he doesn’t “know that much about Lawrence United.”

It will be interesting to see what the final week of the campaign brings from the PAC in terms of advertising. At the end of the reporting period, March 21, Lawrence United still had about $20,000 in its coffers.

The complete reports for all the candidates are available for viewing and show the names and amounts of contributors. You can find them here:

• To see Amyx's report, click here.

• To see Chestnut's report, click here.

• To see Criqui's report, click here.

• To see Farmer's report, click here.

• To see Riordan's report, click here.

• To see Soden's report, click here.

• To see Lawrence United's report, click here.


Catalano 5 years, 2 months ago

Two questions re: Lawrence United report: 1) What is "Legislative Outreach Sponsorship": $250 to the Chamber 2) No documentation on paying for the mailings (perhaps they haven't been billed yet?)

Catalano 5 years, 2 months ago

Really...what is a "Legislative Outreach Sponsorship"?

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 2 months ago

Sorry about that. I got busy yesterday and didn't have as much chance to monitor the boards as usual. I haven't had a chance to call the chamber about it, so I'm only surmising here. But the chamber hosts several events where they bring together legislators to talk about the issues, usually over breakfast or some type of meal. The chamber get sponsors to help with those costs, and the sponsors usually get a mention or their logo on a table tent or something like that. I believe that is what this is, but not certain of that. I haven't checked into it because it didn't raise any immediate red flags with me. I will try to find out more about why the mailing expense hasn't shown up yet. Thanks, Chad

Phil Minkin 5 years, 2 months ago

Leslie Soden is frugal as a candidate and would be frugal with our tax dollars as a commissioner.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

It's all about access, and the contributors at Lawrence United (quite a bit of hubris involved in that name) very clearly expect that that's what they're buying. And after the election, they have the financial incentive and ability to continue to maintain access to city commissioners that average citizens don't have either the time (or the money) to achieve.

"“My integrity is not for sale,” Farmer said."

You loaned your campaign $1900, and thanks to some rather large donations from people who believe that their money buys access and influence, that loan can be repaid. So, the transaction has already been made. It just remains to be seen what, if anything, it bought if you manage to get yourself elected.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

I haven't "defamed" him in any way, shape or form. He took money (quite a lot of it) from people who expect something from him, even if he chooses not to acknowledge it. That doesn't mean we voters can't acknowledge it.

The other two appear to support the agenda of Lawrence United (and that agenda is to get any development proposal they put forward approved) although Chestnut appears to be attempting to moderate that position since his first time around on the commission.

Catalano 5 years, 2 months ago

I think if anyone's trying to buy the election, it's Riordan to the tune of $18K from himself. What's up with that? Jeez, that's more than I make in a year. Maybe I can get him to adopt me.

Jerry Harper 5 years, 2 months ago

Puppets on a String - Follow the money. You take the money, you are beholden. These folks don't spend money without getting a return on their investment.

bad_dog 5 years, 2 months ago

Just thinning the paint in the broad brush...

deltaman 5 years, 2 months ago

I'm following the money Jerry and am now wondering, Are you saying you control the strings of Mike Amyx and Leslie Snoden?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

Is Jerry Harper going to bring development proposals and/or zoning requests on which he will directly profit if Amyx and Soden vote the "right" way?

deltaman 5 years, 2 months ago

Is Lawrence United doing that? As far as I know they are simply supporting candidates. The logic is the same Bozo. If someone donates to a campaign they must expect something in return.

cabmando 5 years, 2 months ago

What heck is a CEO of a food bank? sounds slightly inflated to me

Richard Heckler 5 years, 2 months ago

The PAC was being coy so to speak. It raised a small amount early on the dupe the voters. This PAC will probably spend upwards of $50,000 or more at the end of the day on their 3 candidates.

Face it currently the big spenders of past elections are in office as we speak. What are we getting? NOT great managers of our tax dollars.

And they certainly do not respect the intelligence of local voters which is why voters are NOT given the opportunity to vote on major spending items. Instead we get to sit back and watch the consequences of helter skelter aimless growth. That which goes unmentioned by the local media,city hall and elected officials.

The main feature of this is local profiteers draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes. Taking place at most every city commission meeting.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 2 months ago

Be smart vote in the lowest spenders instead of supporting corrupt special interest control of our city government.

Steve Jacob 5 years, 2 months ago

Anyone get the postcard pointing out all 5 commissioners are white males, and the front vote for Criqui? I think he's a white mail also. Odd.

smot 5 years, 2 months ago

Let me see if I have this right? Any candidate who accepts a political contribution (no matter how small) is then obligated to do whatever it is that they are told to do by the contributor? The only person we should vote for is one who accepts no money or perhaps accepts money from a political faction that you agree with? Got it....thanks for your learned and unbiased opinion.

letsbehonest 5 years, 2 months ago

Why all of this focus on Farmer this or Chestnut that? Why isn't anyone talking about the candidate who gave $18,000 to his own campaign?? That's nuts!!

Hadley_says 5 years, 2 months ago

I would respect other candidates more if they gave more of their own money to their campaign. That way they are not on the take from special interests.

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