Hickenlooper ad Colorado Way

In a campaign ad set to start airing statewide on Monday, June 1, 2020, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper touts the Colorado economy's improvement during his gubernatorial administration from one of the country's most moribund to the best in the country three years running, according to one measure.

The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission voted 5-0 Monday morning to issue a subpoena to former Gov. and U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper to compel him to testify in a remote hearing Thursday on two ethics complaints filed by the Public Trust Institute.

Last week, PTI asked the commission for the subpoena after talks broke down over whether to delay the ethics hearing into August, in hopes that by then an in-person hearing could be held.

While PTI, which was formed by former Republican Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, had backed Hickenlooper's desire for an in-person hearing, on Thursday, McNulty said they were ready to move on and avoid further delays.

But whether the hearing will take place as scheduled on Thursday is still up in the air. Attorney Mark Grueskin, who is representing Hickenlooper, reportedly said he will seek a court order to block the subpoena.

Hickenlooper is accused of accepting gifts in the form of travel and related expenses that exceed the limits set in Amendment 41. That limit was $59 at the time of the travel; it's since been hiked to $65.

The ethics complaints filed against the former governor deal with travel related to a June 2018 trip to Turin, Italy, for the Bilderberg Meeting, an annual forum "designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America."

The complaints 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. He submitted receipts for the Bilderberg meeting. 

Hickenlooper claims that a remote hearing would violate his due process rights, since his attorney would not be able to be in the same room with him. 

McNulty told Colorado Politics last week that "we're sticking to the June 4 date. The commission has decided this is how they want to proceed and we respect that."

At least one commissioner appears to be weary of what's been going on. Bill Leone noted during Monday's meeting that both parties are engaging in "gamesmanship." 

Issuing a subpoena for a state official is not without precedent. The commission did so with the complaint against then-Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who was found to have violated the state ethics law by using taxpayer money to travel to a Republican Lawyers Association convention in 2012.

Gessler appealed the decision all the way to the US Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. Taxpayer shelled out more than $515,000 to cover legal expenses for both the commission, which is represented by the Attorney General, and for Gessler's private attorney.

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