Truth Check: Gardner’s ‘Maserati’ ad makes new claim about Hickenlooper’s ethics violations

Truth Check

DENVER (KDVR) — The Truth Check team continues to look at the candidates and their commercials in the 2020 election. Every advertisement that claims something — we will research and determine if the ads are actually telling the truth.

You can watch our previous “Truth Check” segments here and you can read our criteria and standards here.

The latest Truth Check involves the highly competitive race for one of Colorado’s United States Senate seats. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper is challenging incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner, who’s defending the seat for the first time.

One of Gardner’s latest ad shows him washing a Maserati and attacking Hickenlooper’s Ethics violations.

CLAIM #1 

John Hickenlooper was convicted of ethics laws when he was governor

Exact quote in ad: “In Colorado history, only one governor has been convicted of violating state ethics laws.”

Verdict: Not exactly

Reason: The Independent Ethics Commission did not convict Hickenlooper of anything. The commission doesn’t convict anyone. It holds a civil proceeding that finds people in violation of ethics laws. In June, the commission ruled Hickenlooper did violate Colorado’s ethics laws – the gift ban – on two occasions.

CLAIM #2

Hickenlooper received the maximum penalty for the ethics violations

Exact quote in ad: “John Hickenlooper, he got the maximum possible penalty.”

Verdict: Misleading

Reason: There is no maximum or minimum penalty for violating the gift ban. The Ethics Commission’s rules state that anyone who violates the ban “shall be liable to the state or local jurisdiction for double the amount of the financial equivalent of any benefits obtained by such actions.” In Hickenlooper’s case, that turned out to be $2,750.

CLAIM #3

Hickenlooper accepted illegal gifts – a flight on a private jet and a Maserati limousine ride

Exact quote in ad: “Hickenlooper took illegal gifts, traveled by corporate jet, toured Europe illegally in a Maserati.”

Verdict: True

Reason: The two gifts Hickenlooper took that were against the ethics rules were a flight in a private jet to Connecticut for the commissioning of the USS Colorado and for transportation in a Maserati limousine at a conference in Italy. He did not tour a continent in the car.

CLAIM #4

When Hickenlooper was governor he sold positions for corporate donations

Exact quote in ad: “That’s not all. Hickenlooper sold positions in his office for big corporate checks.”

Verdict: Misleading

Reason: When Hickenlooper led the state, the governor’s office accepted millions of dollars from private corporations, including Anadarko and Noble Energy, to support public initiatives, such as Pedal the Plains and One Book Colorado. The Colorado Sun investigated the money and “found no evidence that the donations were connected to official action taken by Hickenlooper’s administration.” Still, that doesn’t sit well with everyone. Frank LoMonte, the director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, told CBS4, “Even if it’s well intentioned and there’s no influence by it going on, it just raises all sorts of red flags that it could influence the direction of policy.” CBS4 reported that some foundations said, “They paid for policy positions in the office that aligned with their agenda.” But the station’s investigation found “no evidence of a quid pro quo.”

CLAIM #5

Hickenlooper told the media to cover up one of his ethics issues

Exact quote in ad: “It was completely dirty. And he told the media to cover it up.”

Verdict: False

Reason: Here’s exactly what Hickenlooper said last year, months before the ethics commission ruling, when 9NEWS asked him about the private jet trip:

“You guys should be protecting me on stuff like this, where there’s no clear…how could they be…what’s the confusion? That I had a private meeting? No, there were no private meetings. That I somehow saved money myself? I wasn’t going to pay for that plane ticket. I saved the state money.”

Hickenlooper never said to cover up anything. What he did, was allude to the fact that the media should look into his schedule and see exactly what he was doing on his trip to the USS Colorado.

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