Former Republican Speaker of the House Frank McNulty has filed a second ethics complaint against Gov. John Hickenlooper, referring to the term-limited Democrat as “Jet-set John” in the Nov. 29 filing with the state Independent Ethics Commission.
In this latest complaint, McNulty, a longtime Hickenlooper nemesis who runs the newly formed Public Trust Institute, claimed Hickenlooper flew on a private jet Oct. 11 from Washington, D.C., to Centennial Airport.
Hickenlooper was in the nation’s capital as a participant in a Brookings Institute panel Oct. 10. According to the complaint, Hickenlooper flew to Washington for the event on a commercial Frontier Airlines flight.
McNulty claims Hickenlooper accepted the private flight back to Colorado from a corporation, although McNulty’s complaint did not identify the corporation.
McNulty sent the media a public rebuttal, dated Nov. 29, to the governor’s response to the initial Oct. 12 complaint. However, rebuttals are not a standard part of the ethics commission process, and it’s unknown whether the commission will even review it.
The governor filed his response to the initial complaint on Nov. 21.
The original complaint accused Hickenlooper of traveling the globe in private jets and rooming in expensive hotels paid for by businesses in violation of the state’s ethics laws as established under Amendment 41, a state constitutional amendment on ethics passed by voters in 2006. It cites a trip to a Bilderberg Group conference in Turin, Italy.
Under the amendment and other state laws, officials are barred from accepting gifts worth more than $59, but there are exceptions.
Hickenlooper’s Nov. 21 response to McNulty’s initial complaint accused him of making false statements. The governor said that of the trips cited in the complaint, he either paid for his travel, was on trips for state business, or was traveling for private or personal purposes and so state ethics laws did not apply.
In his rebuttal, McNulty said: “John Hickenlooper did what any guilty person would have done, he attacked us for bringing his illegal activities to light and attempted to bury them under paperwork and false claims of defense. Hickenlooper’s response shows how guilty he really is. He cannot show that he paid for his corporate travel aboard multi-million-dollar jets or fancy Italian conference, so he tries to pull the wool over the eyes of Coloradans in the hopes that he’ll get away with it.”
The rebuttal says the governor’s response “provides a creative narrative for each restricted gift he has accepted over the past 12 months. However, Governor Hickenlooper’s excuses do not stand up to the facts and evidence now before the Commission.”
With regard to the Bilderberg meeting, the governor stated in his Nov. 21 response that he paid for the expenses of that conference, but McNulty said the payments shown cover only the flight and hotel costs. The conference was paid for by Fiat Chrysler, McNulty said.
Another trip took the governor to Dallas to officiate at the wedding of a friend, Kimbal Musk, younger brother of Tesla founded Elon Musk. McNulty wrote that “Governor Hickenlooper claims his private travel to Texas on a $19 million dollar private jet constituted ‘lawful consideration’ or ‘honorarium’ for his services officiating a wedding but in truth this event was not even a wedding and a corporation cannot even give a gift under the ‘special occasion’ exception.”
However, the wedding did take place at a Dallas restaurant when the governor claimed it did and local, and news reports noted Hickenlooper was at the event.
The rebuttal also claims the governor’s trip to attend the commissioning of the USS Colorado was on a jet owned by MDC Holdings, which is owned by Larry Mizel, whom the governor called “a close, personal friend.” MDC builds houses under the name Richmond American Homes.
McNulty wrote in his rebuttal that MDC Holdings is a business regulated by the state and even if “Hickenlooper’s participation in the underlying event is wholly proper, it does not justify Governor Hickenlooper flying on a corporate jet to get there. If his participation was an official function, the state should have paid for his expenses with public resources.”
In response to McNulty’s latest complaint, Hickenlooper spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery issued this statement Dec. 5: “Mr. McNulty seems determined to waste more people’s time with his purely partisan pursuits.”
The statement did not address the specifics of McNulty’s new complaint.
On Nov. 19, the state ethics commission voted 3-1 to accept McNulty’s initial complaint, with Commissioner April Jones absent. Jones is among three commissioners who made campaign contributions to Hickenlooper’s past gubernatorial campaigns, donations made years before being appointed to the commission.
The ethics commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 17. Commissioner Bill Leone stated during the commission’s Nov. 19 meeting that they should proceed “quickly” with the Hickenlooper complaint.