Hickenlooper Maintains Innocence And Calls Ethics Complaint ‘Frivolous’ In Response

<p>Meredith Turk/CPR News</p>
<p>Gov. John Hickenlooper arrives at the Democratic election night party, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.</p>
Photo: Election Night 2018 4 | Democratic Party Gov. John Hickenlooper MT
Gov. John Hickenlooper arrives at the Democratic election night party, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.

Gov. John Hickenlooper maintains he did nothing wrong in his official written response to an ethics complaint against him.

The complaint alleged multiple violations of state law, mainly for flashy international travel, particularly on private jets.

“At no time have my actions violated the letter or spirit of Amendment 41,” Hickenlooper said. “The response underscores the frivolous nature of the allegations. We anticipate the matter will be resolved quickly and in our favor.”

  • Read Gov. Hickenlooper's full response here.

Hickenlooper’s response was due to the independent ethics commission today. In it, the Governor said he either paid for the trips himself or the gifts respected the restrictions, such as attending to his sick wife in New York or officiating a friend's wedding.

Hickenlooper said when he attended the private Bilderberg Group conference in Turin, Italy, he paid for his travel. It was not a gift from a private donor.

On another flight, this time from New York City, Hickenlooper accepted travel from a friend, Kenneth Tuchman. Hickenlooper says since it was from a friend for a “special occasion,” it is exempted from gift limits. He needed to get back to Colorado after tending to his sick wife in New York. The response also said that Tuchman had no business before the governor.

On a trip to Dallas, Hickenlooper accepted a trip on Kimbal Musk’s private plane. Hickenlooper said he provided a service — aka; officiating Musk’s wedding — and the trip was provided to him not as a gift, but as a honorarium. The governor claims it’s common practice to pay for the travel of a third party performing the wedding service.

The independent ethics commission is set to investigate whether Hickenlooper violated state ethics laws that restrict the value of gifts elected officials can receive under voter-approved Amendment 41. Former Republican Speaker of the House Frank McNulty filed the complaint on behalf of the newly formed Public Trust Institute.

“Hickenlooper tried to shoe-horn his corporate jet-setting into legal exemptions. He failed,” McNulty said in response to Hickenlooper’s response. “He cannot accept gifts and travel illegally, fail to report them, and then try and claim an existing exemption.”

McNulty says the trips Hickenlooper paid for appear to comply with the law, and “the trip he took to be by his wife's side during surgery is understandable and encouraged. The times he took to his illegal corporate jet-setting and gift-getting deserve scrutiny from the Ethics Commission.”

McNulty fears that if the IEC accepts that travel as legal, it “will open a hole in Colorado ethics laws big enough for a bus and render Amendment 41 meaningless.”

McNulty filed his complaint on Oct.12.

“Gov. Hickenlooper has repeatedly traveled on private airplanes owned by corporations and accepted travel expenses paid for by corporations, each instance represents a direct violation of the Colorado Constitution, Colorado statutes, and this Commission’s clear precedent restricting travel expenses for covered state officials,” the complaint states.

  • Read the full ethics complaint here.

It also alleges that the Governor’s office redacted information about his private plane flights, but not his commercial flights.

“The withholding and redaction of information about Governor Hickenlooper’s private air travel is carried out to conceal the fact that Governor Hickenlooper routinely accepts private air travel that grossly violates the express restrictions set forth in Amendment 41,” the complaint continues.

Now that Hickenlooper has responded to the complaint, the Independent Ethics Commission will set up an investigation. The complaint asks that the governor reveal details for every private flight, and specify who paid for it.

Bente Birkeland contributed to this report.