Democratic Senate candidate and former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper appeared before an ethics hearing Friday after he was held in contempt of court for refusing to appear.
Hickenlooper attended the ethics hearing remotely after Colorado's Independent Ethics Commission voted 5-0 Thursday to hold him in contempt. He is the first person in the state to be held in contempt of court by the Independent Ethics Commission.
"By failing to honor the subpoena of the commission, [Hickenlooper] has indicated a disrespect for the rule of law, disrespect for the commission, disrespect for the process, disrespect for the parties and the witnesses," commissioner Bill Leone said in a statement Thursday. "The defendant has imposed a tremendous amount of cost and inconvenience on the commission, on the Attorney General's Office, on the courts, on witnesses and all those who have an interest in this hearing."
Hickenlooper's hearing will determine whether the former governor improperly received corporate gifts, in the form of travel expenses, while he was an elected official. Colorado has a state ban on all elected officials accepting such gifts. As a candidate, Hickenlooper has often campaigned against the unwelcome influence of corporate money on politics.
On Wednesday, a judge ruled against Hickenlooper's petitions to reschedule the ethics hearing. His attorney argued that the hearing, which was being conducted remotely due to coronavirus concerns, would not afford his client a fair trial.
The Public Trust Institute filed the ethics complaint against the former Colorado governor in October 2018 and filed a subsequent complaint in November 2018. The complaints also allege that Hickenlooper expunged public records of gifts he accepted.
Hickenlooper has denied violating his state's ban on gifts, and his campaign spokeswoman has called the accusations "politically motivated."
If he triumphs in the primary, Hickenlooper will face incumbent senator Cory Gardner (R., Colo.) in November. The primary is set to take place on June 30.