FEC Complaint Alleges Hickenlooper Violated Campaign Finance Laws

John Hickenlooper
John Hickenlooper / Getty Images
July 9, 2020

Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper (D.) may have violated campaign finance laws by coordinating an advertisement with an outside super PAC backing his Senate campaign, according to a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission.

According to the FEC complaint, filed by the conservative watchdog group Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), Hickenlooper posted a statement on one of his campaign websites that was picked up days later in a similarly worded advertisement by the Senate Majority PAC, a committee tied to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.).

"The facts demonstrate there was coordination between Hickenlooper’s campaign and Senate Majority PAC. Hickenlooper posted a ‘request or suggestion’ ask using language we have seen several times in the past," said Kendra Arnold, executive director of FACT. "The fact that 12 days after the ask was published Senate Majority PAC ran the advertisement leads me to believe there was coordination between the campaign and super PAC."

This latest allegation comes on the heels of Hickenlooper's conviction by a state review panel last month for violating gift rules while he was governor, and could invite additional scrutiny into the candidate's ethics record.

According to the complaint, Hickenlooper posted a statement defending his ethics record on a new website he created called on June 13. "Coloradans need to know the facts about the Republican attacks against John Hickenlooper," said the headline of the post.

Democratic candidates have previously used the phrases "need to know" and "deserve to know" as a veiled advertising request to supporting super PACs, according to Politico.

Twelve days after Hickenlooper’s post, the Senate Majority PAC ran an advertisement that used similar content to his statement. Both the ad and the statement blamed Hickenlooper’s ethics charges on Republicans, argued that 95 out of the 97 allegations in the ethics complaint were dismissed, and quoted a Denver Post editorial that said Hickenlooper made "an honest mistake."

The FEC complaint further alleged that the Senate Majority PAC violated campaign finance rules by running B-roll footage in the commercial that had originally been filmed for Hickenlooper’s gubernatorial campaign. Hickenlooper had also used this footage in one of his Senate ads. Super PACs are prohibited from using campaign materials, even if that content can be found publicly online.

"The FEC needs to thoroughly investigate this case and hold the respondents accountable," said Arnold.