The Independent Ethics Commission this week released its long awaited written opinion on John Hickenlooper’s ethics violations detailing their rationale for levying $2,750 in fines against the former governor, the largest fine in the panel’s history.
One of the most damning elements of the opinion concerned Hickenlooper’s free private jet ride provided by MDC Holdings to the commissioning of the USS Colorado in Connecticut.
Even though Hickenlooper spoke at the event, the commission determined the free jet ride and private events were gifts to Hickenlooper as an individual, not to the state of Colorado.
The commission further determined:
“MDC Holdings is not a closely held corporation where a personal friend of the governor essentially owned the private plane. Accordingly … the ‘special occasion’ exception does not apply, because MDC Holdings is not a ‘relative or personal friend’ of the governor.”
Over the course of his time as governor, Hickenlooper accepted several free flights on a corporate jet owned by Liberty Media, where his wife serves as a senior vice president.
One of these trips was to the One Shot Antelope Hunt in Wyoming in 2015, an elite invitation only hunt.
Based on the commission’s finding, Hickenlooper’s only legal defense for such a trip would be to argue that he was there on official business and the jet ride constituted a gift to the State of Colorado.
In other words, Hickenlooper would have been forced to argue that his participation in an event the Eastern Shoshone said offensively appropriated their culture was really just an official duty.
American Indian leaders call on Hickenlooper to withdraw after offensive photos emerge, including one where Hick posed as a “squaw.” #copolitics #coleg @KDVR @CBSDenver @9NEWS @DenverChannel @washingtonpost @RepDianaDeGette
— Reuben Espinosa (@reubenesp) June 28, 2020
Obviously, that would be completely ludicrous.
If it weren’t for the statute of limitations restricting the commission’s review of older trips, Hickenlooper’s 2015 flight to the One Shot Hunt and numerous other trips on the Liberty Media jet would almost certainly have been found to be illegal.
U.S. Sen. Gardner called out Hick last month on this issue:
“If Hickenlooper wants to run a clean race then he should waive the statute of limitations and be honest about his trips on private jets and other ethics violations that were outside the statute of limitations … Be honest with the people of Colorado. If he wants to be honest, be honest,” Gardner said.
While this year’s COVID-related shutdowns reportedly thwarted an effort to change state law and extend the statute of limitations, the Ethics Commission’s opinion only further demonstrates Hick is hiding behind this technicality to avoid accountability.