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Crime Agriculture group puts Arizona lobbyist on leave as lawmaker denies romantic relationship

17:00  22 january  2020
17:00  22 january  2020 Source:   azcentral.com

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Lobbyist for Compensation – May be an individual or business/firm that is compensated by the Principal and/or Public Body and whose primary job responsibility is to lobby in Arizona for a Principal and/or Public Body. A lobbyist for Compensation must register with the Secretary of State’s office.

An agriculture trade association has placed one of its lobbyists on leave amid questions about a possible romantic relationship with an Arizona legislator who serves on committees that play a central role in farm and ranch issues at the state Capitol.

a man in a suit and tie reading a book: Rep. David Cook asks a question during a hearing on HB 2540, January 29, 2019, in the Arizona House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, Energy and Water at the Arizona State Capitol.© Mark Henle/The Republic Rep. David Cook asks a question during a hearing on HB 2540, January 29, 2019, in the Arizona House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, Energy and Water at the Arizona State Capitol.

Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, and AnnaMarie Knorr told The Arizona Republic in separate interviews that they are friends, and that their relationship did not cross ethical lines.

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Seasoned lobbyists said that smoothly deflecting a lawmaker ’s physical advance was a job skill as essential as winning support for a bill. For many female lobbyists on the receiving end of inappropriate comments and advances, reporting the offenses has rarely been a consideration.

Like other relationships in our lives, romantic relationships play an important role in fulfilling our needs for intimacy, social connection, and sexual In some Eastern cultures these decisions may be made by parents, or elders in the community, based on what is good for the family or social group .

The Republic received a batch of handwritten letters earlier this month that portray a close relationship between Cook, a married rancher representing a rural Pinal County district, and Knorr, who works on legislation backed by the agricultural industry and is the daughter of an influential lobbyist.

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Copies of the cards and letters were sent anonymously with the return address given as the state Capitol. In them, Cook referred to Knorr as “honey,” wrote that he missed her “terribly,” and signed the letters, “Love, David oxox.”

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The packet of letters sent to The Republic also contained photographs of what the anonymous sender said were Cook and Knorr together.

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Western Growers, the association of local and regional farms that Knorr represents, said Tuesday it is aware of "allegations of professional misconduct" by an employee in Arizona and that Knorr was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

The newsletter Yellow Sheet Report first reported the action by the association.

Family 'trying to ruin me'

Knorr, 39, said her decision to divorce her husband has angered him and her father.

She said she had not seen the letters sent to The Republic, but said Cook and his wife wrote her letters of encouragement while she was undergoing treatment for a medical condition.

Knorr accused her husband and father of mounting a smear campaign against her and Cook in an attempt to damage them and to convince her to stay in her marriage. Knorr is the daughter of Bas Aja, a powerbroker at the Capitol who for decades has lobbied on behalf of the Arizona Cattle Feeders’ Association

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“All I can tell you is Mr. Cook and I have never had an inappropriate relationship,” Knorr said. “All his family has done is supported me through one of the toughest periods of my life. They’re trying to make this into something else.”

She said her father has sided with her husband: “They don’t think I should get a divorce. They are also trying everything they can to make me feel I have to stay married.”

She said her family is “disowning me and trying to ruin me,” over her decision to end her marriage.

Aja did not respond to multiple attempts by The Republic to reach him.

Knorr's husband, reached by phone Tuesday night, did not immediately provide any comment.

Letter: 'I deeply love you'

Cook, 51, did not dispute that he had written the letters when asked about them during an interview with The Republic. But he refused to discuss the documents.

"We are friends for years," he said of Knorr.

In one letter, addressed to "My love," Cook wrote, "I truly believe that a higher power brought us together at this time in our lives for a right and just purpose."

"I deeply love you and on many occasions I find myself trying to protect me from being hurt by having these deep feelings for you." he said later in the letter, which was signed, "You have me — David."

Agriculture group puts Arizona lobbyist on leave as lawmaker denies romantic relationship

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A free relationship rewrites the rules on social conventions just like an open relationship does. But because the open sexual component is not included there may be more acceptance and broader practice. Men are put under extreme pressure to attend all social events and annual celebrations.

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In another, he appears to reference his wife. “The other morning she woke me up and asked me if I was going to leave her. I did not answer her — I know it is heavy but it is what it is. I am going to bed — I will write to you tomorrow.”

However, Cook said anyone suggesting they had a romantic relationship would be wrong.

Cook said he had not seen the packet sent to the newspaper and declined a reporter's offer to review the package, citing privacy concerns.

"There is nothing except I help people get through their struggle," he said. "I help all kinds of people."

Cook pleaded guilty in March 2019 to a misdemeanor charge of drunken driving stemming from his arrest on a Valley freeway in late 2018.

Cook originally was charged with an extreme DUI; his blood-alcohol level was near twice the legal limit.

According to the police report, Cook reportedly told one highway trooper at the time, “You'll get yours,” and told another, "Do you know what you're doing, son?”

He spent a day in jail, among other penalties, and has been open about his efforts at recovery.

Work at Legislature scrutinized

Cook sponsors bills that Knorr and her organization support.

Cook is a member of two committees that hear bills affecting the agriculture industry that Knorr represents — the Land and Agriculture Committee and the Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee.

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  David Cook sent threatening messages after being confronted for 'drunkenness,' lobbyist says The Arizona House released Aja's email after The Republic began asking questions upon receiving letters Cook wrote to Aja's daughter, AnnaMarie Knorr.Bas Aja, lobbyist for the Arizona Cattle Feeders’ Association, confronted Cook last fall and then received "threatening emails on multiple occasions" from Cook in the middle of the night, Aja wrote in an email to the chief of staff for the House of Representatives.

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Cook was the primary sponsor of 12 bills last year. Knorr signed on in support of four of them. All were favored by the industry, including one dealing with issues such as tax assessments for agriculture land and one that would have infused millions of dollars into the Temporary Groundwater and Irrigation Fund.

Responding to questions about Knorr, Western Growers executive vice president Dave Puglia said in a statement Tuesday, "Western Growers holds itself and its employees to the highest standards of professional conduct. We are also committed to the fundamental notions of fairness and due process. Therefore, Ms. Knorr has been placed on administrative leave pending our investigation into the matter."

The Arizona House has no code of conduct for its members, even though the House voted two years ago to establish one.

Republican leaders in the House are discussing changing the chamber's rules, such as by specifying that only members of the chamber could file complaints against representatives.

It is unclear if or when the House might vote on changes to the rules.

House Majority Leader Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, told The Republic that the changes are not related to Cook. But he described the allegations involving Cook as troubling, if true.

Contact Andrew Oxford at andrew.oxford@arizonarepublic.com. Contact Yvonne Wingett-Sanchez at yvonne.wingett@arizonarepublic.com.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Agriculture group puts Arizona lobbyist on leave as lawmaker denies romantic relationship

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