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Democrat Senate Candidate Violated Ethics By Accepting Personal Gifts, Committee Rules
Democratic presidential candidate and former Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper delivers a campaign speech at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair on August 10, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

A Democrat running for the U.S. Senate was found to have violated a ban on accepting personal gifts while in office, a state ethics committee ruled.

The Washington Free Beacon reported that former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper (D), who also ran a failed bid for president in 2019 and is currently running for the U.S. Senate, was in violation of the ban for accepting a flight on a campaign donor’s private jet and using a Maserati limousine while attending a conference in Italy.

Hickenlooper also accepted three flights on friends’ private jets, though the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission didn’t find those violated the state’s ban on receiving gifts, The Colorado Sun reported. The commission determined those particular flights fell under an exemption that allows gifts from friends or gifts that benefit the state.

“The verdict in the case — the state’s most high-profile ethics trial since voters approved the ban in 2006 — came after a two-day hearing that started dramatically with Hickenlooper refusing to testify and being held in contempt. The commission delayed a decision about potential sanctions for the ethics violations and the contempt charge to June 12, but he faces a fine that amounts to double the benefits he received,” the Sun reported.

Commission member and former U.S. attorney Bill Leone, who voted to find Hickenlooper in violation, told the Sun that if the candidate’s actions were allowed to go unchecked, voters would lose confidence in the government.

“If we allow this kind of special privately financed treatment for elected officials, it just accentuates the cynicism in the public that led to Amendment 41,” Leone said.

The complaint against Hickenlooper was filed in October 2018 by the right-leaning Public Trust Institute. The ruling against the candidate comes at a critical campaign moment – just months ahead of the election. Hickenlooper is running to unseat Republican incumbent Cory Gardner.

Hickenlooper’s campaign did not address the ruling, but said they knew it would be used against them during the campaign. Hickenlooper is also facing a Democrat in the state primary, Andrew Romanoff, who jumped on the committee’s ruling. He noted that it was the commission and not Republicans who found Hickenlooper in violation of the state law.

“The commission’s message is clear — and Coloradans agree: no one is above the law,” Romanoff said in a statement, according to the Sun.

After initially refusing to testify, Hickenlooper agreed “after a Denver District Court judge moved to enforce the subpoena at the request of the Colorado Attorney General’s office, which represents the ethics commission,” the Sun reported.

Hickenlooper testified from his home in Denver due to coronavirus accommodations, which he originally argued that the remote format adopted in the wake of the pandemic would not allow for a fair trial.

The Free Beacon noted that Hickenlooper’s campaign has accepted corporate donations even as he decries money in politics.

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