Democrats

Hickenlooper Taps Lobbyist to Lead Senate Office

Senate candidate John Hickenlooper (D., Colo.) / Getty Images

Colorado senator John Hickenlooper (D.), who fought off attacks regarding his close ties to lobbyists during his campaign for U.S. Senate, has hired a top financial lobbyist as his chief of staff.

Kirtan Mehta, Hickenlooper’s new chief of staff, comes to the job from his perch as a lobbyist for the stock trading app Robinhood. Prior to his work for Robinhood, Mehta worked as senior vice president for congressional relations for the American Bankers Association lobbying Senate Democrats. He entered the lobbying field after several years working for Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.), where he was an adviser on banking and financial issues.

The staffing announcement comes after Hickenlooper’s numerous calls in fundraising emails, digital ads, and stump speeches against corporate influence on politics, which is furthered through the revolving door between corporate lobbyists and the halls of Congress. During his campaign, Hickenlooper bemoaned "that Washington is broken and special interests are rigging the system to pad their pockets" and promised to "make Washington work for Colorado instead of corporate special interests."

Hickenlooper’s close ties to lobbyists caused headaches for him and his national Democratic allies at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last cycle. Liberal outlets such as Sludge reported that big money came into the committee from lobbyists tied to Hickenlooper just ahead of its decision to intervene in Colorado's Democratic primary for the Senate seat. The DSCC's top corporate bundler, lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, employed Doug Friednash, Hickenlooper's chief of staff from when he was Colorado's governor. Friednash was hired by Hickenlooper from Brownstein in 2015.

Hickenlooper amassed over $1 million in contributions from lobbyists and corporate executives during his Senate campaign, according to previous Washington Free Beacon reporting. Local Colorado outlets additionally uncovered millions of dollars funneled to Hickenlooper's office when he was governor by corporations and private foundations, funding positions in his gubernatorial administration without any oversight; ethics experts said the arrangement raised "all sorts of red flags."

Hickenlooper’s office did not respond to a request for comment. It is yet to be announced what committees Hickenlooper will sit on in the Senate.