According to documents turned over by the Arizona House of Representatives’ Speaker’s Office, taxpayers paid nearly $335,000 to try to find some sort of dirt on State Representative David Cook after he was targeted by a powerful lobbyist and the Speaker’s Office.
As has been covered extensively in previous stories, Cook and his wife became targets because they protected AnneMarie Knorr, a family friend, from her father, Bas Aja, a longtime and powerful lobbyist at the Arizona State Capitol. According to court testimony, either Aja or someone in the Speaker’s Office circulated private letters written by Cook and his wife to AnneMarie, to try to make it appear that some sort of love affair was going on between Cook and Knorr. From there, the rumors morphed into ethics complaints and the ethics investigation that followed was Arizona’s own Schiff Show for the first half of 2020.
Run by specially appointed Chairman John Allen (R-15), the investigation process quickly devolved into an effort to find dirt–any dirt–on Cook. Among the more ludicrous charges investigated was cattle rustling. Along the way the Committee ignored House rules and due process where Cook was concerned, they hired Ballard Spahr, a longtime hard-left leaning law firm, and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent on private investigators and attorneys in multiple states.
The net result was the Committee ended up finding nothing, but because they initially decided that Cook would not be allowed to present a defense, House Members revolted at the idea and Cook was granted the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses. Shortly after that the matter was suddenly dropped, but not before Allen wrote a final cheap shot report in an effort to damage Cook. The report was released to the public the same week that ballots were mailed out for the primary.
Cook beat the attacks, won the primary, and was the top vote-getter in the November general election.
This is what happens when a member upsets the Speaker. This invoice includes taxpayer $ given to a private investigator. Any guesses as to why we are using Ethics committee To hire a spook to dig up dirt on a fellow member? It is beyond me. pic.twitter.com/CkUlaF5AHp
— Senator-Elect Kelly Townsend (@KellyTownsend11) November 21, 2020
Rep. Kelly Townsend requested an accounting of the costs associated with the attack on Cook.
But the cost of the investigation has drawn new scrutiny as House Speaker Rusty Bowers has embarked on a new round of attacks on those members he deems disloyal, or those who did not vote to re-elect him as Speaker. Chairmanships are being denied and the Speaker’s Office has again begun publicly attacking Republican Representatives, even as Bowers struggles to manage the GOP’s extremely fragile 31-29 advantage in the House. Many of his caucus want the Legislature to be more proactive in investigating the November election and ensuring the count was legitimate, but Bowers has blocked their efforts and those in front on those efforts, like State Representative Bret Roberts, are now paying a price for it.
Bowers was chosen by the majority of the caucus to serve another two years as Speaker in spite of a lackluster first term, but the election for Speaker takes place formally in January when the House convenes. Until that vote happens, Bowers’ fight with his own members is expected to continue, with taxpayers picking up the tab.