A state ethics committee ruled on Friday that former Colorado governor and current Senate candidate John Hickenlooper (D.) violated a ban on accepting gifts while in office.
The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission decided that Hickenlooper's flight on a campaign donor's private jet, as well as his attendance at a conference in Italy, violated the ban, according to the Colorado Sun. Hickenlooper initially refused to appear at the hearing, prompting the condemnation of a federal judge and members of the commission.
"If we allow this kind of special privately financed treatment for elected officials it just accentuates the cynicism in the public that led to Amendment 41," one commission member said. The amendment, adopted in 2006, placed a ban on elected officials accepting gifts while in office.
The commission unanimously voted to hold Hickenlooper in contempt of court after he refused to appear at a remote hearing. He became the first person in the state to be held in contempt by the commission, and he eventually appeared on Friday.
Hickenlooper defied both a judge's order and a subpoena from the commission to appear at the hearing. He claimed the remote format, adopted because of the coronavirus pandemic, would not lead to a fair trial.
His Senate campaign spokeswoman also called the complaints "politically motivated."
The Public Trust Institute filed two complaints against Hickenlooper alleging that the plane travel violated Amendment 41 and that Hickenlooper's administration covered up the trips by redacting the travel expenses from the public record.
The commission found that two other charges relating to other private flights did not violate the ban.
Despite his rhetoric decrying the influence of corporate money in politics, Hickenlooper's senatorial campaign has accepted more than $1 million in corporate donations, along with hundreds of thousands in donations from corporate-backed PACs.
The failed presidential candidate is vying for the opportunity to take on incumbent senator Cory Gardner (R., Colo.) in November. The Democratic primary is set to be held on June 30.
UPDATED: 8:14 p.m. This article has been updated with the development that the commission found Hickenlooper responsible for a second violation for his attendance at a conference in Italy.