Aspen trip at heart of Gov. Hickenlooper complaint
The Aspen Times
A conservative group is claiming that Gov. John Hickenlooper unlawfully benefited by attending a conference in Aspen this summer and allowing the Democratic Governors Association to pay for it.
In a complaint filed with the state Independent Ethics Commission, Compass Colorado contends Hickenlooper was in violation of a gift ban in the Colorado Constitution. Attendance for the conference — which included a panel discussion at the Aspen Institute and a closing reception at the home of prominent Aspenite Michael Goldberg — cost $350 per person. Room rates were $425 per night for two nights.
Governors attending the event stayed at the St. Regis Aspen Resort hotel, where Hickenlooper spoke on July 12 and 13. Rooms also were booked at the Sky Hotel, the Limelight Lodge, the Hotel Jerome and the Molly Gibson Lodge.
The governor’s office regards the claim as baseless, arguing that participation in the Democratic Governors Association and Republican Governors Association is routine practice for Colorado governors, citing similar involvement by former governors Bill Ritter, Roy Romer and Bill Owens.
“One of the many important roles of the DGA and RGA is to provide expert advice in policy areas to sitting governors and their staff by hosting educational policy conferences throughout the year,” reads a letter from Jack Finlaw, Hickenlooper’s chief legal counsel. Finlaw further states that because Compass Colorado’s claim has no basis in law or fact, the ethics commission should dismiss it as “frivolous.”
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
However, in a 5-0 vote Monday, the commission deemed the complaint to be “non-frivolous,” meaning the item’s review will proceed a step further to Attorney General John Suthers, the state’s top Republican.
The complaint claims that because the Democratic Governors Association accepts more than 5 percent of its funding from for-profit groups, the trip did not qualify for an exemption from the $53 gift-ban provision found in Amendment 41. The group calls for the governor to repay double the amount of benefit “he received in violation of the gift ban.”
“We look forward to further review of this complaint,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. “There is certainly a need for additional clarification and precedent when it comes to Amendment 41.”
The complaint argues that Hickenlooper misused state funds by allowing his staff to coordinate time and travel associated with the trip. It also claims that the governor’s attendance at corporate-sponsored dinners and receptions violated the gift ban.
Finlaw states that conference fees do not constitute an unlawful gift because the DGA received “lawful consideration of equal or greater value in return from the governor for his active role in the” conference programming, including his participation as a keynote speaker at opening and closing receptions.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Aspen and Snowmass Village make the Aspen Times’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Somewhat vanilla on the outside, relying on a heavy dose of the power run, the Basalt High School football team’s offense has always had its share of wrinkles under coach Carl Frerichs. The latest involves the twitchy arm of junior Kade Schneider, who is in his first season as the Longhorns’ QB1.