UPDATE: Hickenlooper has now been held in contempt.
JUST IN: In a stunning rebuke, Colorado's Independent Ethics Commission has unanimously found U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper in contempt for his failure to comply with a subpoena.— Justin Wingerter (@JustinWingerter) June 4, 2020
The commission will meet tomorrow to continue hearing the case. #cosen #copolitics
Former Governor of Colorado and current Senate candidate John Hickenlooper is in a standoff with his state’s Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) over claims of alleged inappropriate gifts and travel during his tenure as governor. Hickenlooper originally agreed to testify at an in-person hearing, but when the IEC moved the hearing to a virtual format given the current circumstances, his legal team said that the former governor would not participate. Hickenlooper and his defense argued that a virtual hearing compromises due process.
A subpoena was eventually sought to compel Hickenlooper to testify, which sounded alarms for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), who brought in Marc Elias, a well-known Democratic lawyer, to fight the subpoena. While the DSCC tries to bail Hickenlooper out with a high-powered attorney of their own, Colorado taxpayers are still funding Hickenlooper’s local defense. Colorado attorney Mark Grueskin remains on Hickenlooper’s legal team, and is paid out of a state fund intended to alleviate economic damage from 9/11, to the tune of $525 dollars per hour. Elias swooped in to appeal and block the subpoena, and argue against a virtual hearing, but a judge who was appointed by Hickenlooper while he was governor, ruled to let the subpoena stand.
“...remote legal proceedings are the norm right now and the IEC has made an informed decision to proceed by video conference in order to avoid any additional delays in (Hickenlooper’s) case. The court will not second-guess that decision,” Denver District Court Judge Christopher J. Baumann wrote.
Hickenlooper's avoidance of addressing the complaints has gone on for months, despite the former governor's advisors calling the ethics complaint "frivolous," as the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) notes:
"John Hickenlooper has tried everything to avoid testifying today, including having the DSCC bring in their go-to legal henchman Marc Elias to back up the $525-an-hour lawyer taxpayers have been paying for out of a post-9/11 economic recovery fund," said NRSC spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez. "He's all out of tricks, and now it’s time for answers.”
Though Judge Baumann ruled that Hickenlooper must testify in Thursday’s hearing, the former governor was not initially present at the virtual session, but Grueskin, his taxpayer-funded attorney, attended:
John Hickenlooper is not at the Ethics Commission hearing into his alleged violations of the Colorado gift ban.— Justin Wingerter (@JustinWingerter) June 4, 2020
A leading U.S. Senate candidate seems to be openly defying both a subpoena and a judge's order. Remarkable. #cosen #copolitics
Suzanne Staiert, with the Public Trust Institute, which filed the ethics complaint, says the commission should enforce the subpoena. "I do not want to move forward without him (Hickenlooper)."— Justin Wingerter (@JustinWingerter) June 4, 2020
The commission is now voting to enforce its subpoena against Hickenlooper. #cosen
The IEC voted unanimously for the state's Attorney General's Office to force Hickenlooper fulfill the subpoena, and the former governor risks being held in contempt if he avoids testifying much longer:
Whoa. The chair of Colorado's Independent Ethics Commission: "The Attorney General's Office says it has a team on its way to enforce the subpoena" against Hickenlooper.— Justin Wingerter (@JustinWingerter) June 4, 2020
She also says she's willing to find Hickenlooper in contempt of their subpoena. #cosen #copolitics
The NRSC poked fun at Hickenlooper, who had avoided confronting claims of ethics violations against him while still actively campaigning:
Indeed, Hickenlooper perpetuated the allegations against him by refusing to testify, so much so that national Democrats had to get involved.