Times are bad for John Hickenlooper and only getting worse.
The former two-term Colorado governor began a campaign for the U.S. Senate this year shortly after declaring himself a bad fit for the job.
“I’m not cut out to be a senator,” Hickenlooper said this year while campaigning for president in Iowa.
When he’s not explaining his self-denunciation on the senatorial primary trail, he will be asked about multiple trips on private jets that led to lingering ethics complaints. Hickenlooper did not pay for most of the travel, which likely puts him in violation of state law that prohibits politicians from accepting political gifts worth more than $53.
The gift ban serves a purpose. It is intended to keep politicians, such as Hickenlooper, from feeling obligated to wealthy benefactors.
One ethics complaint involves Hickenlooper’s trip on a private jet, owned by the brother of battery-car magnate Elon Musk, to attend a Musk-family celebration. Two months later, Hikenlooper signed an executive order that will enrich the Musk family by forcing Colorado car dealers and drivers to buy and sell more battery cars. Hmmm.
It gets worse.
To defend himself against various jet-setter ethics complaints, Hickenlooper hired acclaimed Democrat-loyal attorney Mark Grueskin at $525 an hour. The latest documentation shows Grueskin earning $43,390 on Hickenlooper’s defense.
The Denver Post and Colorado Politics report Hickenlooper’s pricey legal fees are coming out of a federal grant intended to provide Colorado government “essential government services or to cover the costs of certain unfunded federal mandates” resulting from security measures enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks.
That revelation led State Sen. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, and state Rep. Rod Bockenfeld, R-Watkins, to call for a Legislative Audit Committee investigation of Hickenlooper’s legal fees. In a letter to committee leadership, the legislators called the use of security funds “inappropriate” and “perhaps illegal.”
Confronted by 9News Denver about the ethics complaints that led him to hire Grueskin, Hickenlooper pleaded for mercy from media he clearly considers friendly to Democrats. As explained by 9News anchor Kyle Clark on the station’s website, Hickenlooper told reporter Marshall Zellinger “that journalists should be defending him.”
“You guys should be protecting me on stuff like this,” Hickenlooper said. “Where there is no — what’s the confusion, that I had a private meeting? No, there are no private meetings. That I somehow saved money myself, I wasn’t going to pay for that plane ticket — I saved the state money.”
That tells us a lot. To save personal and state money, it seems Hickenlooper accepted gifts of elaborate travel in luxurious private jets. We might never know whether this played a role in his executive order that will further enrich the Musk family’s empire.
And, no, reporters should not protect the former governor on “stuff like this” no matter how much they typically favor the Democratic Party. The media should keep watch on anyone wielding or seeking power.
Democrats need a lot of answers before they nominate Hickenlooper to run for the Senate. They need to know whether he accepted big gifts in violation of the law. If so, they need to know if the gifts affected Hickenlooper’s decisions. And they need to know why the former governor’s lawyer gets paid from federal grant funds intended to help Colorado comply with Homeland Security mandates.
With all these red flags, it seems Hickenlooper meant what he said. Perhaps he is “not cut out to be a senator.”