Americans for Prosperity – a free-market, Koch-supported political group – has released a mailer supporting Sam Williams for Wichita mayor.
The mailer shows a gloomy photo of downtown Wichita saying, “It’s time residents get a clear picture of what’s going on in Wichita.”
On the other side, it shows a glistening photo of downtown that says Williams has “pledged to pursue greater transparency when it comes to how city government operates.”
The mailer then encourages people to call Americans for Prosperity to add their name to a petition to thank Williams “for supporting transparency and accountability in Wichita city government.”
Williams, a retired advertising executive, did not return calls for comment.
His opponent, City Council member Jeff Longwell, says he takes issue with the ad and says that Williams has not had a record of being transparent.
He said that while the city needs to take greater steps to improve transparency, one of the areas the city has struggled with is getting publicly funded agencies like the Wichita Downtown Development Corp. to be open about where money is spent. Williams was the chair of the WDDC.
“Some of those agencies … that get some kind of government funding in some capacity are certainly the ones AFP (Americans for Prosperity) has been frustrated with in the past,” Longwell said.
“(AFP) may want to revisit who they’re backing and the agency he chaired because that’s one of the ones we’re struggling with to get them to release their checkbook.”
Another mailer – this one circulating against Williams – says it’s paid for by Greater Wichita Partnership.
The entity has not filed political action committee forms with the county. Harvey Sorensen, an attorney with Foulston Siefkin who reserved that name with the Kansas Secretary of State’s office, says his group is not responsible for the advertising.
Longwell said he had not heard of the Greater Wichita Partnership and did not know who sent the mailer.
The ad asks: “Sam Williams: Leader or Misleader?” and cites a KWCH-TV investigation that found his claims against Longwell misleading. The ad also mentions Williams’ misuse of the certified public accountant (CPA) title on campaign materials and his kerfuffle with some local businessmen over how he voted on the failed sales tax last fall.
The ad also appears to use a modified version of an Eagle photo, which the Greater Wichita Partnership did not have permission to use.
A similar advertisement taken out in The Eagle last Sunday says the Greater Wichita Partnership’s limited partner is Douglas McKnight. McKnight is listed in campaign finance reports with the Sedgwick County Elections Office as a truck driver who donated $500 to Longwell’s campaign. He could not be reached for comment Friday.