U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn wants the federal government to investigate former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s highly suspect use of federal funds intended for disaster recovery. He should not have to ask. The well-known and seemingly outrageous misuse of funds has been covered by Colorado’s major media organizations, and federal officials have an ethical and fiduciary duty to get involved.
Lamborn, who represents Colorado Springs, wrote a letter this week to the Department of the Treasury’s Acting Inspector General Richard Delmar calling for an investigation into Hickenlooper reportedly using federal funds like a slush fund.
Anyone who thinks the actions of a former governor are water under the bridge should think again. Fiscal irresponsibility has lasting ramifications, and we’re feeling them today. Colorado’s transportation infrastructure is a joke, and anyone who travels out of state can see how far we have fallen behind neighboring states in building and maintaining roads, bridges and highways.
Colorado entered the COVID-19 pandemic with no rainy day fund to help state government through an economic crisis, meaning we have to endure drastic cuts in education, transportation and other essential services. The homelessness dilemma has worsened consistently for most of the past decade with no productive solutions by the state government.
Hickenlooper had eight years and a roaring economy he could have used to fix these problems. Instead, he left us in a lurch. While neglecting to invest in assets, savings, and emergency protocols, Hickenlooper burned through millions of dollars that were intended for economic recovery after the Sept. 11 attacks. Anything left over could have been held in reserve for the next big crisis, or at least invested into education or something else of lasting value to Colorado taxpayers.
As widely reported and known to the public, more than $130,000 of the recovery funds paid for Hickenlooper’s expensive-but-futile legal defense against credible ethics charges after he left office. Though most were tossed for outliving the statute of limitations, Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission convicted Hickenlooper on two of dozens of ethics charges involving the acceptance of illegal corporate donations in the form of private-jet travel, lavish hotels, meals and other travel-related expenses.
One case tossed on a statutory basis reeked of influence peddling. It turns out the brother of electric car magnate Elon Musk put Hickenlooper on a private jet to attend a Musk family party one month before Hickenlooper signed an executive order forcing Colorado car dealers to sell electric cars.
When Hickenlooper took office in 2010, Colorado taxpayers had cash assets of about $10 million in the 9/11 recovery fund. The federal government sent the money under the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003.
Long before the money went for Hickenlooper’s ethics defense, he spent millions on expenses that have nothing to do with post-disaster economic recovery. Public records show Hickenlooper spent six figures for “personal services,” and nearly $400,000 on membership dues to professional associations. After his first term in office, nearly half the $10 million was gone.
Near the end of his second term, Hickenlooper used part of what remained to fund a website touting the governor’s accomplishments. After this, Hickenlooper wants Coloradans to elect him to the U.S. Senate to help govern trillions in taxpayer dollars.
Even our friends on the Denver Post’s more left-leaning, Democratic friendly editorial board are troubled by Hickenlooper’s use of the 9/11 funds.
“We hope future governors realize these types of accounting tricks erode taxpayer trust in government…” said a Post editorial.
Of course, the Treasury Department should investigate. The federal government must know how and why so much money went for expenses unrelated to disaster recovery. Taxpayers need to know this will not happen again at the direction of a Colorado governor.