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Hickenlooper violated gifts rule twice while governor: state ethics panel

Hickenlooper violated gifts rule twice while governor: state ethics panel
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A state ethics commission found Friday that former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperOn The Trail: How marijuana went mainstream Senators press for answers in Space Command move decision Senate rejects Cruz effort to block stimulus checks for undocumented immigrants MORE (D), who is currently running for the Senate, twice violated a state law in 2018 barring officials from accepting gifts.

The Independent Ethics Commission found Hickenlooper violated the constitutional gift ban, known as Amendment 41, when he accepted a ride in a Maserati limousine in Italy and flew on a private jet owned by a home builder to Connecticut to go the commissioning of a submarine.

The five-member panel acquitted Hickenlooper of four other counts that were part of the same complaint filed in 2018 by the conservative Public Trust Institute. Those counts included flights on company planes that were owned by friends.

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The Friday ruling was the culmination of a dramatic week in which Hickenlooper declined to testify at a hearing on Thursday, leading to the commission to find him in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena. He later appeared before the panel remotely on Friday.

The panel still has to decide on potential sanctions on Hickenlooper both for the violations of Amendment 41 and the contempt charge.

The ruling comes as Hickenlooper heads into the June 30 primary against Andrew Romanoff, a former Colorado House speaker, which the former governor is expected to win. The victor of that race will challenge Republican Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE (R), widely considered one of the most vulnerable Senate incumbents.

“I have no sympathy for the Republicans who brought this complaint. Their outrage is hard to stomach,” Romanoff tweeted after the ruling. “But it wasn’t the GOP that found Hick in contempt or in violation of the CO Constitution. It was the Independent Ethics Commission. The message is clear: no one is above the law.” 

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Republicans are expected to use Friday’s ruling to try hit Hickenlooper on the campaign trail as polls show him with leads over Gardner.

“Hickenlooper has spent the last week refusing to testify, ignoring subpoenas, and being found in contempt because he didn’t want to answer for his serious disregard for Colorado's ethics laws,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez. “He is guilty of shrugging off the state's ethics rules and violating the trust taxpayers had placed in him as Governor.” 

The Hickenlooper campaign suggested it is ready for the attacks, saying the GOP will try to “mislead” Colorado voters. 

“We fully expect the special interests who’ve exploited this process to continue to mislead Coloradans with negative attacks because they know John Hickenlooper will be an independent voice in the U.S. Senate,” campaign spokesperson Melissa Miller said in a statement.

The Colorado Senate race is one of the most high-profile down-ballot races of the cycle, with Democrats particularly bullish on unseating Gardner and chipping into the GOP’s 53-47 majority in the upper chamber. The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the race as a “toss up.”