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November 10, 2019 09:45 AM UTC

Hick Ethics Complaint Careens Toward Nothingburger

  • by: Colorado Pols

SUNDAY UPDATE: Frank McNulty’s not going to like the Denver Post’s editorial bottom line:

As Scott Gessler can tell you, all “scandals” are not created equal.


Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D).

As the Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter reports, the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission has released a fact-finding report on allegations in an ethics complaint against former Gov. John Hickenlooper regarding trips Hickenlooper took while governor — filed by former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty:

Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission released a report Thursday into former Gov. John Hickenlooper’s travel, including interview notes that show a private jet trip to Connecticut last year was paid for by a billionaire friend’s company.

The report, which drew no conclusions, will be used by the ethics commission as it conducts a hearing into Hickenlooper’s travel and whether it violated the Colorado Constitution. The report is primarily made up of interview summations, along with documentation such as checks and travel itineraries.

According to interviews with Hickenlooper and an attorney for MDC Holdings, a company that builds single-family homes and is owned by billionaire Larry Mizel, MDC paid to fly Hickenlooper to Connecticut, where he spoke at a USS Colorado commissioning.

The ethics commission’s report discusses the circumstances of a number of trips that Hickenlooper took as governor in 2018. Wingerter cites Hickenlooper’s trip to New London, Connecticut for the commissioning ceremony of the USS Colorado attack submarine–which seems difficult to cast aspersions on, since it’s very much within the scope of the governor’s duties. Other trips cited in the report include a trip to the conspiracy theorists’ favorite Bilderberg conference in Italy that Hicklenlooper says he paid for entirely on his own, and a trip to Texas to preside over the wedding of Boulder restauranteur Kimbal Musk, brother of Elon Musk of SpaceX fame. Hickenlooper’s attorneys say the trip to Texas for the Musk wedding falls under an exemption in the state’s ethics law allowing trips paid for “by a personal friend and on a special occasion.”

With that said, this report is not intended to be conclusive, and any ethics violations determined from the report will be made by the IEC. But it’s pretty clear from these long-awaited details that the facts underlying this complaint do not come close to, for example, the IEC’s determination that former Secretary of State Scott Gessler abused the public trust by spending taxpayer dollars on trips to partisan political events. Some of our readers may find the idea of Hickenlooper flying with Larry Mizel, a kingpin Republican donor to be politically intriguing, but the trip itself to speak at the USS Colorado’s commissioning seems perfectly appropriate–and it’s hard to see the political advantage in ensnaring one of the GOP’s own top donors in an ethics complaint.

Wingerter reports that former Speaker McNulty’s “ethics group,” known as the The Public Trust Institute (PTI), was created only two days before the complaint was filed in October of 2018 against Hickenlooper, and shares an address with a principal GOP “dark money” group known as Defend Colorado which has played heavily in attacks on Gov. Jared Polis over the oil and gas regulation bill SB19-181 as well as the factually-challenged but successful campaign against Referendum CC. All told, this is about Republican political operatives checking a task box they would have checked against Hickenlooper regardless of what office he’s running for.

So we’ll all have to wait for the ethics commission’s conclusions now, but it’s evident from this report that there isn’t a whole lot of “there” there–not enough, anyway, to justify more than a year of faux-outraged chestbeating from Republicans.


14 thoughts on “Hick Ethics Complaint Careens Toward Nothingburger

      1. Larry Mizel, by the way, was going as Chairman of Richmond American Homes Foundation, the presenting sponsor for the Commissioning committee events.  The Colorado Adjutant General was also there.

        If Hickenlooper hadn't gone, the political complaint would be he was dissing the Navy's effort to honor Colorado.  If he flew first class, he'd be an elitist. If he took the train, he'd be a dilettante wasting time.

  1. Guys…THE MEDIA SHOULD BE PROTECTING HIM!! I've always been a Hick fan, but uhhh what? It's a wee bit early for a Hick tantrum. Remember to dab the oil off after an anointing, lest one look a bit…slimy. 

    1. Hey there somekindofblue…

      I don't recall seeing your username before. You must be new. If I am correct…welcome to Pols.

      Alva was one of the early ones to pour the anointing oil, you can bet they will defend him against all critics. It doesn't matter, really. If Hick decides to petition onto the ballot, he will really need to rely on a strong Republican crossover to go with the Unaffiliated he will get. 

      Democrats don't like him much. When I see Hickenlooper win, I will believe it. Until then, I don't think he will win the nomination…anointings notwithstanding.

      It is, what, 6 months or so until the assembly? Any prognostications you see, are nonsense. Let's talk about who will be the best senator.

      In my mind, that is Andrew.

  2. Sir Duke,

    Not new. Longtime comment reader, very infrequent commenter. Thank you for the welcome, though. 

    I agree with the majority of your response save the claim of prognostications. It was more a comment on how the anointing oil has served him in this and previous elections…sliding into a gubernatorial seat without a field program, for example. More than anything, I found his incredulity at the lack of "help" from the media amusing and…on brand. 

    With that, I'll second your commend about Andrew and leave the commenting to the pros for the next few cycles. 


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