Last week we looked at former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s conviction on ethics violations and how that might impact his chances of securing the Democratic nomination in the upcoming Senate race. Hickenlooper is an experienced politician with plenty of years in this game under his belt. How did he manage to mess up badly enough to have the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission find him guilty on multiple ethics charges? The press has been pestering him for an answer on this issue, and now we have it. It’s all the fault of the Republicans. (Free Beacon)

Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper characterized his conviction on ethics violations as Republican “smear attacks” during a primary debate Tuesday night.

Hickenlooper was found guilty by the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission last Friday of twice accepting free luxury travel from business interests while he was governor. The five-member panel also voted unanimously to hold him in contempt for initially defying a subpoena to appear at the hearing.

“These allegations were waged by a dark-money Republican group and they’re going to lay attacks and millions of dollars of smear ads against whoever the Democratic candidate is,” said Hickenlooper said…

Hickenlooper, who once had to explain why he took his mom to see Deep Throat in an x-rated movie theater, has been called on by his primary opponent to drop out of the race. He is thus far resisting such demands, but his path forward has certainly been muddied by the recent findings from the ethics commission.

But what about his “explanation” for how this happened? The lavish trips he took and the plush accommodations he enjoyed on the dime of business interests that had dealings with the state government are a matter of record. If he wants to argue that their generosity didn’t influence his decisions as Governor, that’s one thing. But it’s hardly a “dark money smear campaign” to simply point out the facts.

Former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff is Hickenlooper’s main opponent in the primary and the fact that he’s looking to take advantage of this ethics scandal is no surprise. But he’s not the only person getting nervous about the Democrats’ chances in November with an ethically challenged candidate on the ballot. The editorial board of the Colorado Springs Gazette put out a blistering condemnation of the former Governor on Tuesday, also calling for him to drop out. The described him as “a politician proven susceptible to inappropriate gifts by corporations” and said that was “the last thing” Colorado needs in Washington.

Colorado’s delayed primary is coming up in less than three weeks, on June 30th. Thus far, Hickenlooper has been polling solidly ahead of Romanoff for the nomination as well as leading Cory Gardner for the general election. But this ethics fiasco really hasn’t had time to gell with the public and allow the polling to catch up with the story. Gardner is still considered among the most vulnerable members of the Senate during this cycle and the Democrats’ best shot at flipping a seat in the upper chamber. But that could all change once this news sinks in. Hickenlooper is scheduled for sentencing tomorrow, promising yet another round of bad headlines for him. So it’s just possible that Gardner’s seat may not be entirely lost yet.