Ethics panel fines former Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper $2,750

DENVER (AP) — A Colorado commission fined Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper $2,750 on Friday for ethics violations he committed as governor that included accepting a private jet flight to an official event and receiving benefits he didn’t pay for at a meeting of government, business and financial leaders in Italy.

Hickenlooper insisted his intent was to promote Colorado’s economy as governor. However, he acknowledged last week that on several occasions he didn’t seek an opinion from the ethics commission on individual gifts. He also acknowledged he didn’t get formal training on Colorado ethics law.

The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission fined Hickenlooper $2,200 for accepting a trip to Connecticut on a jet owned by Republican billionaire Larry Mizel’s company, MDC Holdings, to attend the commissioning of the USS Colorado, a U.S. Navy submarine. MDC Holdings is a large developer in Colorado.

It also fined Hickenlooper $550 for accepting transport, meals, tours and other perks during a 2018 conference in Turin, Italy, sponsored by Fiat Chrysler. Hickenlooper testified that he believed a $1,500 hotel bill he paid there covered all expenses.

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The Public Trust Institute, a conservative group led by a former GOP Colorado House speaker, brought the ethics complaint, which Hickenlooper has long denounced as politically motivated.

Hickenlooper, a centrist backed by national Democrats, faces a June 30 primary against former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. The winner takes on incumbent GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, a close ally of President Donald Trump who once was considered among the most vulnerable Republican senators up for reelection this year.

Both Romanoff and national Republicans — including Trump — have slammed Hickenlooper over the ethics violations as well as a contempt order issued by the ethics panel when Hickenlooper ignored a subpoena to appear at a hearing last week. Hickenlooper had sought an in-person hearing to confront his accusers and argued that a remote hearing necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic denied him that right.

After the contempt order was issued, Hickenlooper did appear remotely on the hearing’s second day last week. On Friday, Hickenlooper was online for the commission meeting but did not testify.

The quasi-judicial panel declined to fine the ex-governor for being in contempt but rejected a request by a Hickenlooper attorney to purge the contempt order.

Commissioner Yuelin Willett noted that Hickenlooper’s failure to comply last week forced legal costs on the commission and the postponement of six other ethics cases it had to consider.

“I think there was real damage done,” Willett said.

In two debates with Romanoff this week, Hickenlooper refused to apologize for his actions but accepted the ethics ruling.

The former Denver mayor and brewpub owner served two terms as governor from 2011 to 2019. He also ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination last year.

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In a story June 12, 2020, about ethics fines levied against Colorado U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper, The Associated Press erroneously reported that Hickenlooper was absent at an online commission hearing. This story has been corrected to reflect that Hickenlooper was online but did not testify.

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