Ethics panel releases report on former guv's travel after complaints

JOHN HICKENLOOPER

A report released Thursday by the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission details trips taken last year by then Gov. John Hickenlooper as part of an ongoing investigation into whether the now U.S. Senate candidate violated the state's Constitution on accepting gifts.

The report reaches no conclusion and is to be used as part of the five-member commission's deliberation over two complaints filed against Hickenlooper by a newly formed group, the Public Trust Institute, formed by former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty.

That's why Hickenlooper's campaign committee is saying the complaints were politically motivated.

"The Denver Post Editorial Board has already called the complaints 'politically motivated lies,' and they were filed by a dark money Republican group," Hickenlooper spokeswoman Melissa Miller said. "The fact-finding report released (Thursday) is a routine and a required step in the review process that we hope will proceed on a timely basis."

The report attempts to track who paid for what in several trips Hickenlooper took during 2018, his last year in office.

Those trips were to an international conference in Turin, Italy; commissioning of the USS Colorado submarine in Connecticut; a medical trip for his wife, Robin Pringle, in New York City; a symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and a wedding in Dallas, Texas.

Hickenlooper said he either paid for those trips, meals and lodging himself, or they were part of his officials duties as governor, such as the commissioning ceremony and the Wyoming symposium.

Hickenlooper, through his attorney, Mark Grueskin, said the conference in Italy was paid for either by "earned air miles or his personal credit card." That event, called the Bilderberg Meetings, is an annual conference started in 1954 to help foster better dialogue between Europe and North America.

Hickenlooper was invited because he is "an interesting American person," an unnamed secretary to the Bilderberg Meetings told IEC investigators. That secretary said airfare, food and lodging are borne by those who are invited to attend.

The complaint also alleges that Hickenlooper accepted free air travel on a private plane owned by MDC Holdings, also known as Richmond American Homes. That company is owned by Larry Mizel, a well-known Denver philanthropist and frequent donor to Republicans.

Hickenlooper said he offered to pay for that flight, which was during the New York trip to be with his wife, but the company refused to accept money.

The report also details how his former chief of staff, Pat Meyers, gave Hickenlooper a seat on a private plane from Washington, D.C., to Jackson Hole. Hickenlooper offered to pay for the flight, too, but Meyers refused. Hickenlooper "then offered to give the money to a charity of Meyer's choice, but this offer was also declined," the report said.

Regardless, the trip was in line with his duties as governor, Hickenlooper told IEC investigators.

McNulty's institute posted a copy of the report on its website. It has posted numerous filings to the IEC and media reports about its complaint against Hickenlooper since it filed its first complaint against the governor on Oct. 12, 2018.

The institute was formed just two days before that complaint was filed.

Hickenlooper ended his bid for president in August to seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. His chief Democratic opponent is former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.

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