DEM SENATE Hickenlooper

U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper, a former two-term Colorado governor, speaks with Denver Democrats after a forum in Denver on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, that featured the eight candidates seeking the nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020.

A late response on questions tied to the ethics complaint against U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper shows that the former governor did not pay for all conference costs nor some of the travel expenses for a 2018 trip to Turin, Italy, for the Bilderberg Meeting.

Dino Ioannides, executive director of the state's Independent Ethics Commission, had sent a series of questions to Fiat Chrysler in October about who paid for what at the 2018 conference.

The response, which Colorado Politics obtained Monday, came from Roberto Barry, Fiat Chrysler's assistant general counsel for international affairs and compliance.

Barry said Fiat Chrysler's parent company agreed to provide the Foundation Bilderberg Meetings with a variety of items, including "logistics, security, catering, participant ground transportation between the airport and the hotel, and small items such as pens, pads, and gift bags."

And in response to a question on whether conference participants reimbursed Fiat Chrysler for those items, Barry said they did not. 

In the investigative report released last month, Hickenlooper said the cost of the conference was "several thousand dollars, which includes hotel, food, ground transportation and other event expenses," and that these costs "were paid personally by him." 

Hickenlooper also said he paid the costs he was told to pay by conference organizers, around $6,770.79. The payment to Bilderberg was "all-inclusive and no break-out is possible," Hickenlooper said through his counsel. A later clarification said that conference expenses were itemized into whether they were part of transportation costs or part of hotel costs.

Hickenlooper traveled to the conference in a Maserati limousine, according to one of the questions posed by Ioannides. Barry said that Fiat Chrysler agreed to provide transfers from airports and/or train stations to the meeting venue, using its own vehicles and personnel, "in a manner consistent with practice for transporting its own senior executives when they attend external events."

Barry said that while the company did not have an estimated cost for the limousine transportation or "an independent cost benchmark," they estimated the cost of a taxi from the airport to the conference site at approximately 30 to 50 Euros. That's about $33.44 to $55.73 in U.S. dollars.

The gift limit for Colorado elected officials under Amendment 41, as adjusted periodically by the commission, is currently set at a total of $65.

Hickenlooper spokeswoman Melissa Miller said Monday that "as the investigative report made clear, Governor Hickenlooper paid for his own travel and lodging for this conference. Governor Hickenlooper followed the State’s ethics guidelines. These complaints were filed by a partisan group funded by secret money to try to tear down the governor, and they have been dismissed by independent reports as ‘politically motivated lies.'"

Exactly what will happen with this latest information will be determined by the commission, according to Ioannides.

The ethics charges against Hickenlooper were filed in October 2018 by former Republican Speaker of the House Frank McNulty on behalf of his newly-formed Public Trust Institute. The complaints centered around travel Hickenlooper took in 2017 and 2018, although the commission dismissed the portion of the complaint pertaining to travel in 2017 because it fell outside the commission's one-year statute of limitations.

The investigative report released by the commission last month focused on travel for the Bilderberg Meeting, an annual forum "designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America."

The report also included Hickenlooper's travel to Connecticut in March 2018 for the commissioning of the USS Colorado; private travel to New Jersey in January 2018 and to a wedding in Texas in April 2018; and travel to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in August 2018 to attend the American Enterprise Institute’s Jackson Hole Symposium.

Both the trip to Jackson Hole and the commissioning of the USS Colorado were tied to his official capacity as governor, Hickenlooper said in his response. Hickenlooper said he paid for his travel to Italy, as well as for conference costs. The trip to New Jersey was to be by his wife's side for a medical procedure; the trip to Dallas was to officiate at a wedding for a personal friend.

The commission is tentatively scheduled to hold a formal hearing on the complaint on March 17, 2020, although that hearing could take place sooner if a suitable meeting space can be found. Hickenlooper is represented by attorney Mark Grueskin, who is being paid by funds tied to a federal grant, the Jobs and Growth Tax Reconciliation Act of 2003. 

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