by Chet Hardin
What's worse than struggling for 10 years to build a profitable business, only to lose it during the worst recession in recent history?
Doing all of that and then getting a phone call from a journalist in another state two years later to talk about it.
Paul Gornell and his business partner, Lee Fate, started TournamentGold/Attendeez Inc in 2001 with the help of some start-up money from Robert Blaha.
Hence the phone call: Blaha is now running in a Republican primary against U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, and Lamborn's campaign is attempting to use Gornell's former Nebraska-based company as proof of Blaha's failures as a business leader.
From one ad: "Under Blaha's leadership of a Nebraska business, the IRS has issued 3 federal tax liens against it, exceeding $80,000." Another ad promotes Blaha from a nebulous leadership role to "the director" of the company.
Not true, says Gornell.
His business, which assisted organizers of large events with planning, was never under the leadership of Blaha. Blaha was one of four members of the board of directors, says Gornell — a board that also included former NCAA and USOC executive director Dick Schultz.
There were three tax liens against the company, Gornell says. Two were satisfied and one was pending when the business folded.
"But Robert's involvement in it after 2001," he says, "I wouldn't describe it as all as a leadership role."
Gornell recalls that he was first introduced to Blaha through a relative, and that Blaha provided some first-round funding for the company.
"That was really the extent of his involvement. Part of the negotiation for the first-round investment was that he would also be on the board," Gornell says. "And that is the beginning and end of his involvement with our company."
However, Gornell adds, he would on occasion seek advice and guidance from Blaha. "One of the things we always appreciated about him was his knowledge and experience in business processes, because that's one of his strengths.
"I am amazed that our company has wound up in this," he says. "To me, it kind of underlines to me that if Mr. Lamborn didn't think Robert was a threat to him, this accusation wouldn't have been made.
"I see this as a function of Mr. Lamborn feeling threatened."
You can watch the Lamborn campaign ad, "Question," here.