Ethics commission vote: former Gov. Hickenlooper violated state’s gift ban in 2 of 6 complaints

Politics

DENVER (KDVR/AP) — The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission voted Friday afternoon on six complaints against U.S. Senate candidate and former Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The complaints alleged private plane trips Hickenlooper took while he was Colorado’s governor violated the state’s gift ban.

The commission voted that two of the six complaints did violate the ban.

The Public Trust Institute, a conservative group led by Frank McNulty, a former Republican speaker of the Colorado House, alleged that Hickenlooper violated Colorado’s ethics law by taking free flights on private jets as governor. Hickenlooper, who was governor from 2011 to 2019, has denied the accusations as politically motivated.

The complaint deals with travel to Turin, Italy, for a meeting of government, business and financial leaders, and a separate trip to Connecticut on a jet owned by billionaire Larry Mizel’s company, MDC Holdings, to preside at the commissioning of the USS Colorado, a U.S. Navy submarine. MDC Holdings is a large developer in Colorado.

Colorado law at the time prohibited gifts worth more than $59 to elected officials with limited exceptions. That figure is now $65.

Hickenlooper did not appear before the commission Thursday. He was subpoenaed by the committee to appear but argued that the hearing’s remote format violates his right to face his accusers in person. A judge later granted a petition to enforce the subpoena.

The commission voted on the six complaints as follows:

The commission approved the first complaint 4-1, with the chair voting against. This complaint was about the trip to Connecticut.

It voted unanimously against the second complaint, which was in regards to a trip on a private plane to New Jersey.

It voted 4-1 against the third complaint, about a trip from Texas to Colorado on a plane owned by restauranteur Kimbal Musk (brother of Elon Musk).

The commission unanimously approved the complaint about the trip to Turin.

It voted unanimously against a complaint about a trip from Washington to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

It also voted unanimously against the sixth complaint, which was about a trip from Washington to Colorado.

On June 12, the commission will discuss which sanctions Hickenlooper will face.

Melissa Miller, a spokesperson for Hickenlooper’s Senate campaign, issued the following statement following the votes:

“The Republicans who launched these attacks pursued 97 allegations, and the Commission dismissed 95 — a result that shows you they’ve been focused not on the facts but on political smears. Governor Hickenlooper spoke today about how he followed the guidelines in his travel to bring business to Colorado, which went from 40th in job creation to number one in the country while he was governor. We fully expect the special interests who’ve exploited this process to continue to mislead Coloradans with negative attacks because they know John Hickenlooper will be an independent voice in the U.S. Senate.”

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