U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper must pay a $2,750 fine for gifts he inappropriately accepted as governor but he faces no further consequences for a contempt citation, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission determined Friday.
The fines are twice the commission’s estimated cost for a one-way private flight and limousine rides Hickenlooper improperly accepted at different points in 2018.
“Governor Hickenlooper accepts the Commission’s findings and takes responsibility,” Melissa Miller, a spokeswoman for his campaign, said Friday.
Commission Vice Chair William Leone noted that the body has never been able to assess “robust” penalties. It’s less about the money, anyway, he said. Instead it’s about the complaint, a breach of trust and violation of state ethics laws.
The commission shot down a request from Hickenlooper’s attorney, Mark Grueskin, to purge a contempt citation they leveled against the former governor after he refused to cooperate with a subpoena requiring his testimony. But the group also agreed they wouldn’t attempt to charge Hickenlooper for attorney fees over that citation given concerns voiced by Commissioner Yeulin Willett that the body might not have the authority to do so.
The commission’s ruling comes just a week after it determined Hickenlooper violated state ethics laws by allowing large corporations to pay for a private jet trip to Connecticut, a Maserati limousine ride and plush dinners in 2018.
Hickenlooper did not address the commission Friday, though he listened in on the call.
He has also downplayed the case as a smear attempt from Republicans before the June 30 primary. The initial complaint was filed by a former Republican speaker of the Colorado House, and GOP officials have taken to hammering Hickenlooper over the ordeal.
The commission found that Hickenlooper violated the state’s ban on gifts to public officials in June 2018 when he attended secretive Bilderberg Meetings in Italy.
The commission also found last week that Hickenlooper had also violated ethic rules when he accepted a flight and fancy dinners from MDC Holdings in March 2018.
Republicans have had a lot to say in recent days about the outcome of the long-running ethics investigation.
“It’s now up to Governor Hickenlooper to do the right thing: take full responsibility for violating the Colorado Constitution and pay back Colorado taxpayers over $127,000 for his taxpayer-funded attorney fees that came from a 9/11 economic recovery fund,” Republican Sen. Cory Gardner said in a statement after the commission’s ruling Friday.
Hickenlooper’s Democratic primary opponent, Andrew Romanoff, has used the violations to demand that the former governor drop out of the race.
“When he said he wasn’t “cut out” to be a senator, we didn’t know he’d try so hard to prove it,” Romanoff said after the ruling.
The pressure from both sides of the aisle put Hickenlooper on the defensive over the last week, including in two debates with Romanoff.