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Ethics Report On Former Gov. John Hickenlooper Raises Questions

DENVER (CBS4) - A long-awaited ethics report on former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is out and it details questionable gifts and travel accommodations on corporate jets. Hickenlooper is accused of violating Colorado Constitution's ban on gifts for public officials. If he's found guilty, he will have to pay three times the value of the gift.

The report details facts uncovered by the Independent Ethics Committee during a year-long investigation, but it does not make any conclusions as to whether Hickenlooper's conduct was in violation of the gift ban.

John Hickenlooper
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks at the National Press Club on June 13, 2019 in Washington. (credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Hickenlooper's Senate campaign tried to downplay the report as a political hit job, but the person who filed it says it shows a pattern of illegal behavior.

"I think the governor is hooked," said former Republican Speaker of the House Frank McNulty.

McNulty accused Hickenlooper of using private jets, owned by his friend's corporations. Hickenlooper's attorney argues he paid for flights, pointing a $1,000 check he says was reimbursement for a flight provided by Kimbal Musk, whose wedding Hickenlooper officiated. But the check was made out to a nonprofit.

"He didn't reimburse that company and that's a big issue for the governor," said McNulty.

The report also details a corporate flight to Connecticut where Hickenlooper attended the commissioning of the USS Colorado. MDC Holdings owns the jet. Hickenlooper's friend Larry Mizel is CEO and chairman of the company.

But MDC's lawyers told the Ethics Committee that MDC and Larry Mizel are not the same, "John Hickenlooper, as a public official, is not allowed to take gifts of any amount from corporations like MDC Holdings."

McNulty also accused Hickenlooper of illegally accepting gifts at a conference in Italy. Hickenlooper's attorney says he reimbursed the organization that hosted the event $6,000, insisting it was a package deal.

"The organization that is a question here said all of these things are provided separately. Sponsors pay for them. In this case, it is a foreign corporation that paid for the gifts, ground transportation and other things the attendees received," said McNulty.

Neither Hickenlooper nor a spokesperson would go on camera. The communications director for his Senate campaign released a statement saying the complaints are the work of a "dark money Republican group" and "the report is a routine and required step in the review process that we hope will proceed on a timely basis."

Both McNulty and Hickenlooper have a week to respond to the report. Then the Ethics Committee will hold hearings to decide whether Hickenlooper violated the law.

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