2020 Election

Hickenlooper Slapped With Fine for Violating State Gift Laws

Former governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper / Getty Images

Former Colorado governor and Democratic Senate candidate John Hickenlooper was slapped with a $2,750 fine on Friday for violating state gift laws.

The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission also rejected Hickenlooper’s request to drop a contempt charge against him for initially defying a subpoena to appear at his ethics trial. The decision caps a difficult week for Hickenlooper, which included his conviction for ethics violations, his garbled exchange with a reporter over sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden, and a scathing editorial opposing his candidacy from the Colorado Springs Gazette.

"Governor Hickenlooper accepts the commission’s findings and takes responsibility," Hickenlooper’s communications director Melissa Miller said in a statement to a Denver Post reporter. The campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Washington Free Beacon.  

Earlier this week, Hickenlooper appeared to downplay the ethics charges against him as "smear attacks" from Republican groups.

"These allegations were waged by a dark-money Republican group and they're going to lay attacks and millions of dollars of smear ads against whoever the Democratic candidate is," Hickenlooper said in a debate on Tuesday.

Hickenlooper will not appeal the sentence, according to the Denver Post. The former governor’s ethics trial and conviction have vexed his Senate campaign in recent weeks, although he continues to hold a wide lead in polls over Republican incumbent senator Cory Gardner.

Hickenlooper was found guilty last week of twice accepting illicit travel gifts from business interests when he was governor, including a free private jet trip and a chauffeured Maserati limousine ride.

The initial ethics commission complaint against Hickenlooper was filed in 2018 by the Public Trust Institute, a watchdog group founded by former Republican Colorado House speaker Frank McNulty. The organization praised the ethics commission's decision on Friday and called on Hickenlooper to reimburse taxpayers for legal fees connected to his trial.

"Today the Independent Ethics Commission rightly dismissed Hickenlooper's hail-mary attempt to erase his contempt citation and issued the largest ethics fine in their history," PTI counsel Suzanne Staiert told the Free Beacon. "[T]he only question left is whether Hickenlooper will pay taxpayers back for his state funded, $525 per hour legal fees that have already reached over $127,000."

The fine was described as the "highest penalty" in the history of the state’s independent ethics commission by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

"The Ethics Commission's decision to order John Hickenlooper pay the highest penalty in Commission history is an important step toward accountability," NRSC spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said in a statement. "Hickenlooper violated the Colorado constitution, disrespected the rule of law, and forced the commission to subpoena him and find him in contempt before answering their questions."