Colorado Democratic candidate and former governor John Hickenlooper has been nailed on ethics violations while in office as the state's chief executive in 2018, and that's not good news on the "retke the Senate" front for Team Blue.
Former Gov. John Hickenlooper violated state ethics laws when he allowed large corporations to cover the cost of a private jet trip to Connecticut, a Maserati limousine ride, and several ritzy dinners in 2018, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission ruled Friday.
The commission considered six allegations against Hickenlooper. The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate was found to have not violated Amendment 41, the state’s ban on gifts to public officials, in four instances.
Hickenlooper testified for several hours Friday morning after the commission found him to be in contempt Thursday for refusing to comply with a subpoena. His attorney had argued that the subpoena was a violation of his due process rights, in part because the video conferencing program is glitchy, but Friday’s testimony occurred without technical difficulty.
The commission agreed unanimously that that Hickenlooper violated the gift ban in June 2018 when he attended secretive Bilderberg meetings in Italy. He paid a flat fee of $1,500 that he said he believed covered the cost of a hotel stay, limousine transportation, meals and more. The event’s sponsor, Fiat-Chrysler, has said the $1,500 fee did not include the limousine rides.
“At that time, I felt I was paying the full cost and complying in every way with Amendment 41,” Hickenlooper testified before the vote Friday.
The commission voted 4-1 to find Hickenlooper violated Amendment 41 when he accepted a flight and exclusive high-end dinners from MDC Holdings in March 2018.
“I’m concerned that if we allow this kind of special, privately financed treatment for elected officials, it just accentuates the cynicism that led to Amendment 41,” Commissioner Bill Leone said before that vote.
The commission will meet June 12 to consider what penalties to place on Hickenlooper for the two ethics violations, as well as his contempt citation.
Four of the six allegations were discarded due to exceptions to the ban for gifts from friends and gifts on special occasions. The commission voted 5-0 that Hickenlooper’s acceptance of a flight from billionaire friend Ken Tuchman was not a violation. It also unanimously determined flights on his chief of staff’s private jet on two occasions were not violations.
Now, the good news for Democrats is that the Senate primary is at the end of the month on June 30. Hickenlooper has a massive poll lead in both the general election against Cory Gardner and in the primary against Democrat Andrew Romanoff, the former State Speaker of the House. Romanoff and Hicklooper face off on Tuesday in a debate.
How the ethics violations will affect Hickenlooper's chances in the primary and in the general, I don't know. I do know however that if this were a Republican, I'd be predicting their demise in this climate.
Having said that, the Democrats still have a number of paths to 51 seats (or 50 + Biden's VP) to take back the Senate, even without Gardner's seat. It just becomes a lot easier with a win here.
We'll see how he answers this week.