Well, this is certainly awkward, particularly when you consider the timing. The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission ruled this week that former Democratic Governor (and current Senate candidate) John Hickenlooper violated the ethics codes when he accepted lavish travel arrangements from a donor back when he was still residing in the Governor’s mansion. In a unanimous decision, the commission found that accepting such gifts (and later deleting the details from his public record) invited “the cynicism of the public” toward the integrity of elected officials. Hickenlooper was also recently found to be in contempt for refusing to answer a subpoena to testify before the commission. (Free Beacon)
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.
None of this means that John Hickenlooper is heading to trial or might wind up in jail. He’s basically just been censured in a public forum, but that’s about it. And there’s not all that much else they could do to him since he’s currently a private citizen, albeit a candidate for the Senate. But it’s definitely not a good look, is it?
So does this mean Senator Cory Gardner (R – Colorado) is in the clear this November? As we discussed previously, Gardner is currently viewed as the most vulnerable Senator in the upper chamber and clearly the most likely opportunity for the Democrats to flip a seat. The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 20th, and up until now it’s been generally assumed that John Hickenlooper would win the nomination pretty much by default. The latest polling has similarly assumed he would be facing Gardner and shows the former Governor with a nearly 20 point lead over the incumbent. Could all of this mean that Hickenlooper might not even win the nomination or, even if he does, deliver another term to Garnder in November?
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, at the risk of looking foolish later on. To put this in a bit more perspective, just ask yourself how well Bob Menendez fared in New Jersey after his trial over charges of bribery, fraud, and making false statements. Granted, Menendez wasn’t found guilty (barely), but the wall-to-wall press coverage of the evidence presented painted an ugly picture of someone who accepted far more lavish generosity from a supporter under very dubious circumstances at best. And yet in 2018, Menendez defeated Republican businessman Bob Hugin by a dozen points.
You might also recall that in 2018, Republican Congressman Chris Collins was already well on his way to an eventual insider trading conviction. (He’s currently awaiting an easing of the virus before beginning his prison term.) And he still managed to win another term during the same election cycle where Menendez won, though by a considerably thinner margin.
If Hickenlooper is popular enough with Colorado’s residents and Gardner isn’t seen as a desirable choice anymore, they’ll find a way to excuse the former Governor’s little “indiscretions” with his donors and pull the lever for him. Let’s face it. We live in an era where political scandals are so common that the average voter can’t keep up with all the stories on a weekly basis. If Gardner plays his cards right and there’s any more dirt to come out on Hickenlooper, it’s not impossible that the GOP may still hang on to this seat. But I’ve been to this rodeo too many times to get my hopes up over one ethics investigation.