Who is Bob?
Bob Cornelius is a businessman and political consultant whose character can be easily discerned by two sentences in his Twitter bio: “Some people say I’m influential in politics. I don’t correct them.”
Cornelius is often seen campaigning for underdog and unknown candidates in Republican primaries. In most cases his candidate does not succeed in winning the primary and gaining the Republican nomination.
What are Bob’s campaign consulting “accomplishments?”
In 2012, Bob Cornelius company 90 Degrees made over 23,500 dollars from the Gary Smith congressional primary campaign. He supported Smith as the “more conservative” candidate of all political parties in the race and fully backed him, though Cornelius lived in a different congressional district (click to enlarge).
Cornelius has admitted that he advised Smith to advertise on Joe Monahan’s blog, which cost Smith nearly 3,000 dollars. Why would a REPUBLICAN candidate in a REPUBLICAN primary be advertising on a far-left blog that is famous for attacks on REPUBLICANS?
Cornelius supported his candidate until the end of the primary in the spring. Smith lost the primary to the much better known Janice Arnold-Jones. When Gary Smith began to slash his primary opponent’s tires this past fall, Cornelius insisted that the man had completely changed since he had worked on his campaign:
Oops…looks like Smith has a history of tire slashing…I guess maybe Cornelius was wrong and Smith hadn’t changed?!
After an El Paso couple saw that Gary Smith made national news for his alleged crimes in Albuquerque, they contacted the Albuquerque Police to notify them that Smith had outstanding warrants in Texas for similar crimes.
Surveillance video taken in 2011 in El Paso shows a man stabbing holes in the tires of two cars. A police report filed by the El Paso couple at the time states they are 100 percent positive the man doing the stabbing is Gary Smith.
Bob made more that 50,000 dollars off of his consulting job for congressional candidate Jeff Byrd, where he claims he was the general consultant. Byrd, predictably for the Democrat-leaning CD-3, lost. Byrd beat a much more likely candidate with national connections when he won the primary.
A quick run through early posts on Byrd’s Twitter account and Facebook page made it clear that without Cornelius doing upkeep, Byrd’s accounts would have been filled with embarrassing spelling and grammar errors unbecoming of a congressional candidate.
Embarrassment to Republicans?
In January 2013 KOAT reported that the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department had an arrest warrant out for Bob Cornelius after he was accused of failing to pay his hotel bill during his stay in Tampa as an alternate delegate to the RNC convention.
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What do others (non-Republicans) say about Cornelius?
Over the phone, Cornelius is charming, intelligent and progressive. His attractively-designed website touts his credentials as a political science major at Eastern New Mexico University and a partner in an alternative energy company that “will create hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in annual revenue for the city of Clovis.”
Problem is, Cornelius never graduated from ENMU. The biogas “company” has yet to nail down a single investor, and the mayor of Clovis—whom Cornelius says he’s met with about the project—doesn’t recall hearing about it. Both of Cornelius’ two campaign finance reports were filed late, and his only real source of revenue is a $100,000 bank loan to himself—which he then re-loaned to the campaign. What gives?
Problem #1: ENMU
Both Cornelius’ website and Facebook page are careful to avoid actually claiming he has a degree, but the New Mexican recently referred to Cornelius’ “B.A. in political science and mass communications,” and political reporter Peter St. Cyr has called him “a graduate of Eastern New Mexico”—and Cornelius hasn’t exactly corrected them. But Margaret Estrada in the registrar’s office tells SFR that while Cornelius did attend ENMU from May 2000 to May 2004, he never actually graduated with a degree. Cornelius did not respond to an e-mail and a phone message SFR left asking whether he had graduated.
Problem #2: Petro Verde
From Cornelius’ website:
“He is a partner in a company that works with the energy industry to help navigate the burdensome regulations our state has placed on the backs of our small businesses. Their current project is the Petro Verde project in Clovis, where a biogas plant will be built that will create hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in annual revenue for the city of Clovis.”
a) Nobody’s heard of Petro Verde
“We’ve met with the mayor of Clovis,” Cornelius tells SFR.
“I do not remember meeting with [Cornelius] specifically,” Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield says, “and I typically have a good memory.”
Brumfield says it’s possible she met only briefly with Cornelius or other Petro Verde reps and forgot, “but as far as really working with them, I haven’t been involved. To pinpoint and say, ‘Yes, I remember talking with them, and they were going to do whatever—no, I don’t remember that at all.’”
b) Is Petro Verde even a company?
According to Cornelius, Petro Verde LLC (see the PRC’s record on it here) doesn’t have any permits, any money—or any investors.
“At this point we’re just building support,” Cornelius says. “Steve* has met with different investors, and I have a meeting in a couple weeks with some investors, but no money has exchanged. I mean, there’s no—we’re not—you know what I mean?”
Cornelius says the group—in which his role as unpaid “partner” is “setting up the meetings and stuff like that”—thought they had some investors, but “then the economy took a dive.”
*c) Who’s Steve?
According to Cornelius, Stephen E. Stockman is the president of Petro Verde and a former Texas congressman. Like Cornelius, he’s reputed to be a Baptist and a member of the National Rifle Association. Here’s an ironic wrinkle, though: In 1993, an assistant to Stockman’s congressional campaign opponent filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Stockman had violated the Federal Election Campaign Act. According to court documents, the FEC’s 16-month investigation “found reason to believe that Stockman violated the Campaign Act.” (Stockman attempted to stop the investigation and later filed a series of lawsuits against the FEC; the courts generally sided with the Commission.) SFR was unable to reach Stockman.
d) Then there’s Joey…
Petro Verde’s veep is one Joey Aragon. SFR couldn’t reach him, either—but what’s strange about Aragon is that Cornelius says he’s never met him. One might hope he’s not this Joey Aragon.
Problem #3: Campaign Finance
Cornelius filed both of his campaign finance reports on May 11—even though the first was due April 12 and the second on May 10—and reporters weren’t the only ones who noticed. Nelson Spear, an attorney and petroleum investor who says he’s been friends with Cornelius for the past five years, says he’d started noticing that things Cornelius was posting on Facebook “seemed to be really inconsistent with the truth.”
This particular one was on Twitter, not Facebook, but nonetheless, on April 14, Cornelius wrote, “We have a $101,250 to $3,758.18 Cash-on-Hand advantage over our primary opponent w/ 48 days to go! Thank you for your support!”
Spear says, “That sounds weird, because knowing Bob as I do, he doesn’t have $100,000.” Spear says he confronted Cornelius about several inconsistencies, such as why he could rattle off that number and yet fail to file a campaign finance report on time.
“He really didn’t have a good explanation,” Spear says. (Cornelius tells SFR his treasurer, who is his sister, “had some trouble with it.”)
“It’s not like he didn’t know about it,” Spear adds. “I let him know about within less than 48 hours of it[s] being due, and [Cornelius] acknowledged [it].”
Spear also takes issue with Cornelius’ referring to a re-loaned loan as “cash on-hand,” but Cornelius tells SFR they’re basically the same thing.
SFR asked Spear if he thought such behavior was in character.
“I’m not sure how to answer that,” Spear says. “When I suggested he didn’t have a real good reputation for honesty, when I confronted him about it, he did not react; he did not deny; he did not say, ‘well yeah you’re right.’”
Though I am a strong critic of The Santa Fe Reporter, I must agree with Bob Cornelius, that even a broken clock is right twice a day (quoting Stephen Hunt):