“Jet-set John” is what former Republican Speaker of the House Frank McNulty of Highlands Ranch is calling Gov. John Hickenlooper. That new nickname shows up in a second ethics complaint filed late last week against Hickenlooper with the state Independent Ethics Commission.
In this latest complaint, McNulty, who runs the newly-formed Public Trust Institute, claimed Hickenlooper flew on a private jet on Oct. 11 from Washington, D.C., to Centennial Airport. Hickenlooper was in the nation’s capital as a participant in a Brookings Institute panel on Oct. 10. According to the complaint, Hickenlooper flew to Washington on Oct. 10 on a Frontier flight.
McNulty claims Hickenlooper accepted the private flight back to Colorado from a corporation, although McNulty’s complaint did not identify the corporation.
McNulty also filed a rebuttal to the governor’s response to the initial Oct. 12 complaint. The governor filed that response Nov. 21.
The governor’s office has not yet responded to a request for comment on the rebuttal or latest complaint.
In his rebuttal, McNulty said “John Hickenlooper did what any guilty person would have done, he attacked us for bringing his illegal activities to light and attempted to bury them under paperwork and false claims of defense,. Hickenlooper’s response shows how guilty he really is. He cannot show that he paid for his corporate travel aboard multi-million-dollar jets or fancy Italian conference, so he tries to pull the wool over the eyes of Coloradans in the hopes that he’ll get away with it.”
On Nov. 19, the ethics commission voted 3-1 to accept the complaint, with Commissioner April Jones absent. Jones is among three commissioners who made campaign contributions to Hickenlooper’s past gubernatorial campaigns, donations made years before being appointed to the commission.
The original complaint claimed the governor accepted gifts of travel not allowed under the state’s ethics law, Amendment 41, which limits gifts to elected officials to a value of $59.
The rebuttal says the governor’s response “provides a creative narrative for each restricted gift he has accepted over the past 12 months. However, Governor Hickenlooper’s excuses do not stand up to the facts and evidence now before the Commission.”
The complaints center on travel the governor made on private jets owned by for-profit corporations for trips in the United States and overseas, and that the governor illegally accepted “luxury hotel accommodations and expensive travel expenses from corporations.”
For example, in June, the governor traveled to Italy for a meeting of the private Bilderberg Group. The governor stated in his response that he paid for the expenses of that conference, but McNulty said the payments shown cover only the flight and hotel costs. The conference itself was paid for by Fiat Chrysler, McNulty said.
Another trip took the governor to Dallas to officiate at the wedding of a friend, Kimbal Musk, younger brother of Tesla founder Elon Musk. McNulty wrote that “Governor Hickenlooper claims his private travel to Texas on a $19 million dollar private jet constituted ‘lawful consideration’ or ‘honorarium’ for his services officiating a wedding but in truth this event was not even a wedding and a corporation cannot even give a gift under the ‘special occasion’ exception.” However, the wedding did take place at a Dallas restaurant when the governor claimed it did and local and international news reports noted Hickenlooper was at the event.
The rebuttal also claims the governor’s trip to attend the commissioning of the USS Colorado was on a jet owned by MDC Holdings, which is owned by Larry Mizel, whom the governor called “a close, personal friend.” McNulty wrote that MDC Holdings is a business regulated by the state and even if “Hickenlooper’s participation in the underlying event is wholly proper, it does not justify Governor Hickenlooper flying on a corporate jet to get there. If his participation was an official function, the state should have paid for his expenses with public resources,” McNulty wrote in the rebuttal.
The ethics commission’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 17. Commissioner Bill Leone said during the commission’s Nov. 19 meeting that they should proceed “quickly” with the Hickenlooper complaint.