Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, now a candidate for U.S. Senate, has faced growing criticism over alleged ethics violations two weeks out from the state’s primary election.
During two debates last week, Hickenlooper, who is running against former state representative Andrew Romanoff in the Democratic primary to challenge Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in November, repeatedly defended himself over an ethics commission ruling that found that he had violated Colorado’s ban on public officials accepting gifts on two separate occasions.
“Look, John Hickenlooper just wrote the Republicans’ ad against him twice now,” Romanoff said in a primary debate on June 9. “The truth is that John Hickenlooper represents a threat we cannot afford.”
The controversy surrounding Hickenlooper stems from an ethics committee ruling issued last week that stated that he had accepted a flight on a private jet to Connecticut and a ride in a limousine while in Italy. Both incidents occurred in 2018.
The creation of the committee was the result of a complaint against Hickenlooper filed by conservative group, which alleged that he broke the Colorado rule that bans public officials or their families from accepting gifts, travel, entertainment or anything else that is valued over a set monetary limit of $53 per year, according to the Colorado State Constitution. Hickenlooper’s two activities cost $1,375, The Hill reported.
In addition to the committee’s finding, its members also voted unanimously to hold Hickenlooper in contempt after he failed to comply with a subpoena requiring him to testify virtually over his alleged violations. He eventually went before the panel on June 5, though he defended his decision to not initially appear, citing the coronavirus pandemic as his primary reason.
“I thought my due process rights – and my lawyer supported this – that would be better served if I could appear in person,” Hickenlooper said in a debate on June 10.
The former governor ultimately said that he accepted responsibility for the violations, and that he would personally pay the fines that were issued as a result via a statement from his campaign on June 12, the Colorado Sun reported.
Colorado’s down-ballot primaries, scheduled for June 30, will decide who will take on Republican incumbent Gardner, who is one of the most vulnerable GOP senators this cycle. While Romanoff, who has touted progressive policies, has gained momentum, Hickenlooper remains the frontrunner in the primary and in the general against Gardner, with polls indicating a double-digit lead in a state that has become more blue in recent years.
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