Ethics Complaint Against Hickenlooper Falls Apart

We’ve been following the silly saga of an ethics complaint filed against former Gov. John Hickenlooper by a partisan “watchdog” organization ever since allegations against the now-U.S. Senate candidate first appeared in late 2018. These charges always looked flimsy, and they are now completely dissolving as we get closer to a conclusive hearing by the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission in March.

“The Public Trust Institute…acknowledged that it had no evidence…”

— The Colorado Sun (via “The Unaffiliated” newsletter, 2/14/20)

This “ethics complaint” was filed in October 2018 by an organization called The Public Trust Institute, a right-wing group headed up by the shady former Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty. Hickenlooper and allies have long argued that the complaint was nothing but a politically-motivated hit job, and it’s always been tough to disagree; The Public Trust Institute, after all, was created literally two days before it filed the Hickenlooper allegations. Subsequent reports have revealed that the information provided in the ethics complaint came from America Rising PAC, a well-known Republican opposition research firm.

Frank McNulty

Unfortunately for PTI and America Rising PAC, no amount of research can dig up facts that don’t exist. Check out this paragraph from “The Unaffiliated,” a political newsletter published by The Colorado Sun (no link available):

This week, in a little-noticed move, the commission dismissed elements of key claims made in the complaint regarding the airfare and hotel for Hickenlooper’s trip to the Bilderberg conference in Italy, the cost of a hotel during a trip to Connecticut and the use of a private airline terminal in New Jersey. The Public Trust Institute, the dark-money funded conservative political group that filed the complaint in 2018, acknowledged that it had no evidence to show those travel arrangements amounted to an inappropriate gift to the governor and the state’s Independent Ethics Commission dismissed those matters. [Pols emphasis]

From the beginning, the entire purpose of this “ethics complaint” was to generate some negative headlines for Hickenlooper that could be exploited by Republicans in 2020 — whether Hickenlooper was a candidate for President or for U.S. Senate. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) eventually ended up spending less than $1,000 on a half-assed digital advertising campaign that was abandoned just days later.

It is absurd that an “ethics complaint” supported with zero evidence could generate media coverage of any kind, but McNulty and friends worked Colorado reporters hard to squeeze out a tiny bit of hysteria by insisting that ignoring the Hickenlooper allegations was an example of liberal media bias. McNulty’s biggest success was to get The Denver Post to start referring to money allocated to Colorado through “The Bush Tax Cuts” as a “Post-9/11 Recovery Fund,” which then emboldened them to allege that Hickenlooper’s legal defense was coming from a fund meant for 9/11 survivors. This was nonsense, but it generated a few news clips nonetheless.

The editorial board of The Denver Post was correct in November 2019 when it wrote, “the most sensational accusations [in this complaint] are easy to dismiss.” Common sense should have prevailed among journalists by then, even as McNulty and pals like Suzanne Staiert furiously tried to keep the fires burning, but the hint of potential scandal in an otherwise boring U.S. Senate primary helped the story to limp along for a bit longer.

Anybody can file an “ethics complaint” with the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission — you can do it yourself right now by just downloading the complaint form. The moral of this story is simple: A mere complaint doth not a scandal make.

Also, stop taking calls from Frank McNulty.

37 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. RepealAndReplace says:

    Here you go again, Pols…..

    Saying nice things about former Governor, and future Senator, Hickenlooper.

  2. davebarnes says:

    I thought we had a Democrat Senate primary: Andrew vs Hick.
    I am confused.

    • MADCO says:

      It's spelled 
      D E M O C R A T I C

      and Colorado is having a Democratic Caucus next month, and then in June a Non-presidential Primary.

      Stating the obvious about your confusion is no excuse.

    • RepealAndReplace says:

      If you listen carefully to some, there is no primary. There is simply a rigged system in which the oily boys and the establishment will anoint Hick over a candidate of the people.

      • Conserv. Head Banger says:

        Which candidate of which people?

        I always listen to opposing viewpoints, like Hick as a senate candidate is some sort of DNC plot. Of course, it is hard to give such viewpoints serious credibility.

        Maybe it’s time for an investigation of Frank McNulty. Got to be something floating around in his past somewhere…….

      • Duke Cox says:

        You are suggesting, perhaps, the OilyBoyz&Girlz WOULDN’T install a hand picked senator if they could? Really?

        Oh, wait….they think they can, actually, they have before…repeatedly. Why would we think they didn’t talk their fair-haired champion into carrying their water in the senate? For whom or what would he make such a sacrifice?   …Me? His love of trees? Working on his karma?

        It makes me sad you are still intent on taking Polsters for fools.

        • Gilpin Guy says:

          What I really like about Bloomberg is that he knows who the enemy is.  He skips bashing fellow Democrats and goes after Trump.  IMHO, the Bros are more intent on ridding the Democratic Party of “Sell Out Establishment Dems” than beating Trump and his lapdog Gardner.  You can be a purity prick all you want Duke but at the end of the day the Bros Utopian vision of no “Sell Out Establishment Dems” is total bullshit and plays into the Republicans strategy to create divisions and disruptions.  Hickenlooper wants to beat Gardner.  That’s good enough for me.  The other candidates are 2nd tier.  There is only one outcome that is important to me and all this other horseshit is destructive.

          • Duke Cox says:

            You may call me any sort of derogatory names you like, it does not change a single fact. The kind of things which you Hickenlovers never seem to want to address. "Hickenlooper wants to beat Gardner. That's good enough for me". I guess since none of the other candidates want to beat Gardner, that makes him the only choice, I reckon. 

            Every aspect of John Hickenloopers' candidacy for the Senate is bullshit. He didn't want the job… said he wouldn't be good at it. He is a dishonest man whose record is clear and unacceptable. You can't seem to argue on his merits, so I get the impression it is your loathing of Bernie and Andrew which is more at play than any real reasons to support Bloomberg and Hickenlooper.                                                     

            But…only the mighty Frackenlooper can defeat the most vulnerable, unpopular, senator in the institution, right?. And, of course we want another billionaire in the White House.

            The middle of the road is a road to defeat. Weren't you guys the ones who said Bernie couldn't beat T***p, but Hillary would send him packing? Putins' personal hatred for Hillary was a primary motive for his interference in 2016. It is likely he may have not been so motivated had Bernie been the candidate.

            Reading the hostile, condecending rhetoric coming from our Corporate Benevolent Society, it seems ironic to talk of Bernie Bros. sowing discord. You guys do enough of that. And I believe you will all turn your backs on the Democratic party if Bernie wins the nomination. Such is your hypocrisy.


            • MattC says:

              You are right.
              And winning matters. A lot.

              This is one of those perception is reality things

              I stand chastised and belittled
              Hick is a stronger general candidate.


              • RepealAndReplace says:

                Hick is the stronger candidate because Hick is willing to do whatever it takes to beat Gardner.

                There are some things the other candidates will not do (i.e., fundraising). Hick won't run out of money, or worse, draw money from the DSCC which should go to Iowa, North Carolina and Maine.

              • Voyageur says:

                Hick has been elected mayor of denver twice aand gov twice.  That's why we think he can win.  Has your favor ever won a big race, MattC?

                Which one?

            • RepealAndReplace says:

              "Putins' personal hatred for Hillary was a primary motive for his interference in 2016. It is likely he may have not been so motivated had Bernie been the candidate."

              OK, so if Putin has nothing but indifference towards Bernie, we get to win the White House?

              I'm sure when Bernie's honeymoon photo from Red Square in the 1980's start to appear in TV commercials, Putin will warm up to Bernie.

            • Gilpin Guy says:

              No we won't turn our back on Sanders if he gets the nomination like the Bros did to Clinton in 2016.  Big difference in motivations.  We want to win this election cycle, not rid the Democratic Party of "Establishment Dems" so Bernie's personality cult can rival Trumps.

              • Duke Cox says:

                Not every Sanders supporter is the same, and Warren is my preference. I don’t want to exclude ANYONE from the Democratic party. There should always be a vigorous dialogue within the party, but we MUST pay attention to the future of our party and consider the vision of our young people. 

                I have long respected your voice, GG. More than anything else, the OD, Yertle, and the rest of the Orange Horde want us to fight amongst ourselves. That, we cannot allow.

                Peace, my brothers and sisters. Whatever rancor may occur during this primary, we simply must not take it to heart. Solidarity is our only hope.

      • Diogenesdemar says:

        “Ok, you could be right.  So what, maybe that’s the way things were in the past,  . . .

        . .  . but, this year things are gonna’ be different.

        . . . Yes sirree, things are gonna’ be really different this year.  Just you watch; you’ll see.  Yes sirree!”

    • JohnInDenver says:

      There probably will be a primary … 1500 valid signatures per Congressional district or 30% of the Convention delegates seems doable….

      Anyone expect the ballot to contain names beyond Hickenlooper and Romanoff?

      Anyone expect Romanoff to fall off and not make the ballot?

      • RepealAndReplace says:

        Romo will get the 30% at the state assembly. I'd be shocked if he didn't.

        Did he get top line in 2010 when he ran against Mikey?

        • MattC says:

          Top Line is always funny to me.
          It does not correlate with winning.
          It is pointless.

          The candidates should flip a coin for ballot order, and the caucus result should be shown on the ballot

          Candidate( 37%)
          Candidate (petition)
          Candidate (34%)
          Undeclared  (29%)

        • kwtree says:

          Stephany Spaulding is lining up caucus votes. If she gets a chance to speak at Assembly, people will vote for her. She’s that good. Trish Zornio also has a strong following. Lorena Garcia has many people getting petitions signed around the state to get onto the ballot. I’m  volunteering for her myself- I think that people should work and vote for the candidate whose policies and values they agree with most.

          I wouldn’t count any of these women out, although certainly the DSCC and the Democratic pundits counted them all out long ago in favor of the corporate candidate, Hickenlooper. 

          And yes, probably Romanoff will get at least 30% at Assembly. If I’m elected as a delegate, and if one of the women doesn’t make threshold, I’ll probably even vote for him to get on the ballot. 

          • Gilpin Guy says:

            Yuck.  Are you really so insane that you think Hickenlooper and the DSCC are the bad guys?  Really?  You sound like a Republican plant intent are discrediting other Democrats who aren’t of the right purity and who may have gasp worked for an energy company in the past.  Oh the shame of it.  Ugh.  Bloomberg has a chance and so does Hickenlooper because they care about beating the Republicans not each other.  You on the other hand have no clue who the real enemy is.  I hate the Bros and their attempts to be like Republicans and drive out everyone who doesn’t think like them and worship Bernie.

            • kwtree says:

              GG, for once I didn’t critique Hickenlooper, but talked up the strengths and doings of the other Senate candidates.  If Hick is as awesome as you say, surely he can’t be threatened by some “second tier” candidates. 

              Republican plant? No. Truth teller? Yes. Y’all don’t have any arguments about who Hick is and what his past actions are…at least no one on here has ever contradicted that he:

              nominated an ALEC oil industry guy, Glen Vaad, to the PUC, against the advice of his constituents. Vaad then proceeded to advocate for Black Hills Energy to continue to raise rates and gouge and disconnect Pueblo consumers. 

              threatened to sue Longmont and any other mcities that banned or limited fracking

              reluctantly signed methane regs and renewable energy mandates, after more stringent ones were rejected.

              drank fracking fluid as a publicity stunt to show how safe fracking was

              is very clear that he won’t vote for a Green New Deal or Medicare for All bills

              said that he didn’t want the Senate job and wouldn’t be good at it.

              was pushed into the Senate race by the DSCC after they received $1.5 million in donations from energy and insurance corporations

              Etc. probably more. Nobody has disputed these facts – they just don’t like me posting them. Of course, I can put up links to them again, if you like. 

              Almost all of the other Senate candidates are better on the environment and on healthcare than Hick is. I think that y’all will regret the DSCC’s choice if Hick is one of the Senate votes deciding against meaningful climate or health care laws. 

              But no one can say you weren’t warned.

              • Voyageur says:

                We weren’t warned. We were hectored by a left wing froot loop who never, ever, lets a day go by without bellowing how awful the two term mayor of denver and two term governor of Colorado is and why we must nominate third rate candidates nobody heard of.
                Give it a rest , your blowhardship. One day without bellowing the same tired old smears at a man who has worked very hard for this state.

                • MattC says:

                  You are a hypocrite.
                  You have been smearing Sanders for at least 4 years.

                  If he is the nominee are you going to break out the MAGA hat and four more! or are you going to enthusiastically get behind him?
                  There are no other choices.

                  • Duke Cox says:

                    Yes, Matt, our center right, corporate acolyte club will, I believe, abandon the Democratic party if Bernie is nominated. They all want us to commit to supporting their compromised darlings, should they be nominated, but they will not support our choice.


                    • Gilpin Guy says:

                      Come on Duke.  We are not the reverse image of the Bros.  We won't stay home and pout about email servers when the country and our party needs us.  We'll do the right thing.  Will you?

                    • MattC says:

                      Gilpin Guy
                      Bros staying home is bullshit. It's a talking point.

                      Hillary won Colorado by a safe margin.
                      I am doubtful the bros were the deciding factor in PA (or WI) and that was electoral win for the other guy.

                      But wait – a bunch of bros in CA, NY and WA "sat it out"
                      I suspect rich entitle guy bs  because what they meant was Bernie was and is unelectable.

                      Any D nominee is electable IF WE ALL ENTHUSIASTICALLY SUPPORT THEM AND VOTE FOR THEM.

                    • Duke Cox says:

                      Yes, GG.

                      VOTE BLUE! NO MATTER WHO!!

                  • Voyageur says:

                    Bernie sucks rotten eggs through a plastic straw!  He's still 1024 times better than Trump, though I usually round that off to 1,000.

                    listen to Duke, dummy.  Blue no matter who!

              • The realist says:

                I had forgotten about Hickenlooper's appointment of Glenn Vaad – yikes! Why on earth would he have chosen an industry/ALEC guy like Vaad?! And this is only 6 years ago – not like we didn't already know we needed to act on climate change.

                I know a little about Black Hills Energy – the cost of electricity in their southern Colorado service territory is a disaster, hugely higher than Xcel's, in a part of the state in which the average household income is roughly 30 percent lower than the statewide average.


          • MattC says:

            Not in my neighborhood precinct or county, where Hick is going to get 60% + of the support


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