We wrote last summer and fall about the political tactic of using independent ethics investigations as campaign fodder — regardless of whether the investigation has any merit whatsoever. As Fox 31's Eli Stokols reports today, someone needs to investigate the ethics of the investigator hired by the Independent Ethics Commission (got that?):
Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office released an outside report Monday investigating whether he violated the state’s ethics law — a report that isn’t being accepted by the Colorado Ethics Commission because of questions about the investigator’s fairness.
Compass Colorado, a conservative group charged with targeting Hickenlooper, a Democrat who faces reelection this fall, filed a complaint last year alleging that the governor violated the gift-ban provision of Amendment 41 by allowing the Democratic Governors Association to pick up his costs for a conference last summer in Aspen.
In March, the Ethics Commission hired Acclaim Investigations to find out what happened at the Aspen conference last July, where participants — mostly oil and gas industry executives — donated at least $10,000 to take part in discussions and private dinners with Hickenlooper and a few other governors, according to the report released Monday.
Bill McBean, an investigator employed by Acclaim and contracted by the commission to investigate, appears to have mis-characterized Hickenlooper’s own answers when interviewing his staffers, possibly in an effort to trip them up with a number of leading questions.
You really should read the entire story to see the full extent of the absurdity from this "investigation" by Bill McBean. The Governor's office wisely released a bunch of documents today showing transcripts of interviews with McBean, and they are pretty ridiculous. On multiple occasions, McBean straight-out tells his interview subjects that he thinks the Democratic Governor's Association Summit was a "pay-to-play" event; McBean is supposed to be an "independent" investigator, but it's hard to see anything but bias when he makes direct accusations of misconduct during the investigation process.
The Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) is scheduled to meet on April 14th to make a decision on the complaint filed against Hickenlooper. But even if the IEC rules that Hick did nothing wrong, McBean's biased words will almost certainly show up in negative ads against the Governor this fall, and that's wrong — particularly when Republicans such as Attorney General John Suthers have already publicly stated that the investigation is ridiculous.
Full press release from the Governor's office after the jump.
Records released related to Independence Ethics Commission
DENVER — Monday, April 7, 2014 — The Governor’s Office today released records related to work being done by the state’s Independent Ethics Commission (IEC). The records include a draft report done by an investigator hired by the IEC, as well as transcripts of interviews completed by the same investigator.
The Governor’s Office received an unsolicited copy of the investigator’s draft report on March 29. At the IEC hearing two days later (March 31), the Governor’s Office heard for the first time from IEC Commissioners that they had not seen the report and would not be accepting a report from the investigator. Instead, the IEC announced it would use the transcripts and audio of the interviews as its formal investigation.
In response to a Colorado Open Records Act request, which the Governor’s Office received on Thursday, the draft report is being released today. The Governor’s Office is also releasing the interview transcripts because they are relevant to the case and there is no reason to protect them. The transcripts were delivered last week by the IEC to all parties in the complaint.
As the interviews by the investigator make clear, and as the Governor’s Office has explained in detail in recent months, the facts of the case include:
*The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) policy conference in Aspen last summer was initiated and run by the DGA, following a long-standing tradition of the DGA and the Republican Governors Association to hold these types meetings that former Govs. Roy Romer, Bill Owens and Bill Ritter all attended during their time in office. The DGA policy conferences attract speakers who have nothing to do with supporting the DGA or the Democratic Party and have often included prominent people like T. Boone Pickens and other Republicans.
*The governor did not engage in any fundraising on behalf of the DGA during the weekend’s DGA activities.
*The rooms provided for the governor and his staff were fully compliant with Amendment 41 provisions.
*Policy briefings compiled by the governor’s staff were for the exclusive use of the governor, and are a standard practice since the governor is governor 24/7 no matter what the audience. Policy briefings are an important and appropriate use of policy staff time to ensure Colorado is always presented in the most favorable and competitive light before any audience.
*Fundraising activities by the governor that weekend were separate from the DGA policy conference, and did not involve any state resources or any of the paid attendees of the DGA policy conference. The two separate fundraisers were to benefit the Hickenlooper campaign and Colorado Democratic Party.
The Governor’s Office has cooperated fully throughout the IEC process, and the Governor’s Office has vigorously defended the claims against the governor.
“The governor did not violate any constitutional provision, statute, rule, reporting requirement or other standard of ethical conduct in preparing for or hosting the DGA conference,” a response letter dated Dec. 20, 2013, to the IEC says.
Further, the Governor’s Office argued in a motion filed with the IEC on Feb. 28 that the case should be dismissed as frivolous. “The governor’s hosting of the Policy Conference complied with all of Colorado’s constitutional and statutory ethical laws,” the motion says.
The governor will not comment about the complaint before the IEC meeting on April 14.
Records attached to this press release include: the investigator’s draft report, and transcripts from each of the 10 interviews completed by the investigator. Also attached are the Governor’s Office Dec. 20 response to the complaint, and the Governor’s Office Motion to Dismiss filed on Feb. 28.