DENVER — A nonprofit group led by a former political adversary of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper alleged Friday that Hickenlooper failed to disclose as gifts extensive travel on flights paid for by others.
The newly-formed Public Trust Institute filed the lengthy complaint with the state Independent Ethics Commission. Former Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty, who directs the group, clashed with the governor in 2012 over Hickenlooper's support for civil unions.
A 2006 constitutional amendment bans most gifts to elected state officials and all in exchange for services. A strict gift limit of $59 applies, with certain exceptions, to state elected officials.
Friday's complaint cites dozens of flights taken by Hickenlooper since he assumed office in 2011. McNulty's group said it filed the complaint after comparing dates when the governor was traveling with details in campaign finance reports.
In an interview with Denver7, McNulty said there are some red flags concerning the governor’s travels.
“This isn’t a case where it happened only once. What we uncovered is, there is a pattern of abuse where the governor not only accepted these gifts but by redacting the activity from his public calendar, he really tried to cover it up,” said McNulty.
A 2006 constitutional amendment bans most gifts to elected state officials and all in exchange for services. A strict gift limit of $59 applies to state elected officials. The ethics commission first considers whether to investigate any complaints and, ultimately, can issue fines or other penalties.
The institute asked the commission to determine whether Hickenlooper accepted other benefits, including hotel stays, while attending events in Italy, Switzerland and the U.S. Its complaint cites several flights taken by the governor on jets owned by corporate entities such as homebuilder M.D.C. Holdings and Liberty Media Corp.
Hickenlooper's office did not comment on the specific allegations, but called the complaint a "political stunt." in a statement sent to Denver7, the governor’s press secretary, Jacque Montgomery, said "It looks like the organization was created in the last few days to trump up frivolous accusations. They ignored the Independent Ethics Commission process by going straight to the media."
Responding to the statement from the governor’s office, McNulty said that the actions need to speak for themselves.
“There is a need for somebody to call balls and strikes. And if Republican or Democrat, the public needs to make sure that somebody is watching because they don’t have the time to do that,” McNulty said.
Hickenlooper wouldn't need to report travel if he personally paid for it up-front. Any reimbursements afterward would need to be reported.
In September, Hickenlooper filed paperwork to form a federal political action committee amid lingering speculation that he may be considering a presidential bid. He is term-limited.
“If the governor did violate the law and if there is a pattern of abuse, then he needs to come clean and make it right by the people of Colorado - and make it right with the Ethics Commission as well, don’t let this drag out,” McNulty said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report