Democratic Senate hopeful John Hickenlooper's ethics hearing has been pushed back more than a month due to coronavirus fears.
The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission announced Monday that the start of Hickenlooper's hearing has been postponed from March 24 to April 28, according to Colorado Politics. The former presidential candidate is accused of accepting free private jet rides during his time as governor in violation of the state's constitution.
The postponement could serve to hurt Hickenlooper, the favorite of national Democratic leadership, as the hearing was pushed closer to the state's June 30 Senate primary. Hickenlooper faces a strong primary challenge from progressive Andrew Romanoff. In early March, Romanoff polled 25 points higher than Hickenlooper among voters in a primary preference vote taken during the state's Democratic caucuses.
Hickenlooper's troubles stem from complaints filed by the Public Trust Institute, a group created by Colorado's former speaker of the house Frank McNulty. The group alleged that Hickenlooper "traveled on private jets owned by for-profit corporations both domestically and internationally and illegally accepted luxury hotel accommodations and expensive travel expenses from corporations."
The complaints allege that Hickenlooper improperly accepted a number of private jet trips, including a chartered flight to Connecticut covered by Hickenlooper's billionaire friend. Another flight at issue was a 2018 charter to Italy for a Bilderberg meeting.
In November, the state's ethics commission released a report that included interview segments, checks, and itineraries that would be used for the investigation. Hickenlooper's attorney sought to get the investigation dropped. The commission unanimously voted against that request.
McNulty called the commission's report a "wake-up call" and accused the former governor of "Chicago-style politics." Public Trust said Hickenlooper's chartered flights violated Amendment 41 of the Colorado Constitution, which bars public officials from accepting gifts valued above $53 per year.
A spokesman for the Colorado Republican Party told the Washington Free Beacon that voters will hold Hickenlooper accountable regardless of when the hearing occurs.
"It doesn't matter when this hearing takes place," said Joseph Jackson, communications director for the Colorado Republican Party. "Coloradans already know that John Hickenlooper abused his office and they will hold him accountable for his unethical behavior at the ballot box."
Hickenlooper has denied the allegations. His spokeswoman, Melissa Miller, has pinned his ethics troubles on Republican dark money groups.
"The appetite on the part of the national establishment was to crush our little grassroots army here, and that didn’t turn out too well for them," Romanoff said at the time of the preference poll. "Voters want somebody who is going to go and fight for them and not just do the bidding of some party boss or the bidding of a power broker in Washington."
Local reports out of the state indicate the hearing could be pushed back again at a later time.