Arizona Rep. David Cook has the spotlight on him regarding his relationship with a lobbyist. The Arizona House Committee has released a report regarding complaints against him. The documentation leads to believe that the relationship was romantic in nature as opposed to strictly friends as Cook claims.
The report accuses Cook of not agreeing to cooperate with the investigation. A conflict of interest arose when it came to light that he had a relationship with Annamarie Knorr, who previously represented an agricultural group.
Cook has until Friday to submit a written response to the House ethics committee that is investigating two complaints against him.
This will hang over the republican’s head as he runs for reelection in August.
Cook faced two ethics complaints unsealed by the House in February, including an allegation he arranged a campaign contribution for the Pinal County sheriff in exchange for the lawman canceling the planned seizure of a farm property. The farm property was owned in part by Knorr.
The ethics complaint by former law enforcement officer turned congressional candidate Kevin Cavanaugh claimed that in 2018 Cook told him that he asked the Pinal County sheriff to hold off on seizing property owned by Knorr, her husband or companies linked to her family.
These various companies owed the county about $140,000 in property taxes, according to the complaint.
Cavanaugh said Cook told him that Sheriff Mark Lamb would cancel the seizure in exchange for a campaign donation.
The complaint said that Lamb later claimed to have received a contribution from the “father of the property owner.”
The report said, however, that Cook’s recounting of the matter to investigators contradicted the sheriff’s. Cook told investigators he “didn’t know Knorr Farms existed” when he first called the sheriff and that he did not call about any particular property.
The second complaint, filed by one of Cook’s constituents, charged that the legislator was in a romantic relationship with Knorr and contends that this inevitably raises a conflict of interest.
The report from attorneys hired by the committee said letters Cook has sent to Knorr suggest the two had a romantic relationship. The report included portions of notes where the legislator wrote messages such as “just so there is no misunderstanding — I love you” and in one note, Cook said he wondered if he was committing a sin by “coveting another man’s wife.”
Though both Cook and Knorr deny that characterization of their relationship, the report released Friday said the denials are “in conflict with Rep. Cook’s own written correspondence to her and testimony of witnesses interviewed during the investigation.”
The report cited the allegations from Knorr’s father, long-time cattle industry lobbyist Bas Aja, who accused Cook of having an affair with his daughter. The report said Knorr’s estranged husband also said she had an affair with the legislator.
Knorr has said the two have sought to smear her and convince her to stay in the marriage.
Cook is a member of two committees that hear bills affecting the agriculture industry that Knorr had represented — the Land and Agriculture Committee and the Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee.
The legislator was primary sponsor of 12 bills in 2019 and Knorr signed on in support of 4 of those bills on behalf of the Western Growers Association.
That included House Bill 2097 that allows county officials to make tax payment plans for some owners of agricultural property — a change in policy that might have helped the Knorr family.
The report offers questions about Cook being drunk on the job and exhibiting the behavior of an alcoholic.
Here are a couple more notes from the appendix of the report:
From Cook to Knorr: “But I am the guy who will love you to the ends of the earth and back, come happiness or high water. I know you know that already… and that’s only one of the many reasons I love you.” (There were several hearts printed at the bottom of the note as well.)
From Cook to Knorr: “All I know is ‘Love is Supposed to Win!’ And all I know is you have gotten me to love you- more than you can imagine- with any faults or misdeeds- I am your man.”
From Cook to Knorr: “Just so there is no misunderstanding- I Love You.”
From Cook to Knorr: “I love you- and will always be here for you.”
From Cook to Knorr: “OX OX OX OX”
“There are no ‘ethics’ involved in this matter,” Cook’s lawyer wrote in a letter to the committee. “Rep. Cook has done nothing that will ever be proven to have affected his sacred role as the people’s representative. There is no collusion, there is no bribery, there is no abuse of power. There is no ‘drunken’ acts that could possibly be proven to have effected anyone. There is only acts of kindness, compassion and assistance to an old friend that is no one else’s business, that has been twisted and warped by an ex-husband and a father who has an agenda.”
The House adjourned its session last month. The House cannot expel Cook if not in session. So, voters may judge Cook before the committee is even able to. Again, primaries are in August and Cook is up against two other candidates.
Click here to read the House Committee’s Full Report, including Copies of Notes from Cook to Knorr.
Click here to learn more about Arizona Republican Rep. David Cook.