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.
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.