Hickenlooper & Another Questionable Flight

The Spot, a Denver Post newsletter ran a piece on yet another taxpayer-funded trip that Hickenlooper and his wife took to an exclusive dinner at a donor’s house in Aspen.

It was Sept. 12, 2016, and Ali Murray was unsure.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s scheduler was preparing to tell the Colorado State Patrol which of Hickenlooper’s recent flights on a state airplane would be paid for by taxpayers. But, as she wrote to a colleague in the governor’s office that day, there was one flight she was unsure of.

“Governor and First Lady took state plane to Aspen for a dinner with Jane Harman and others. He did not speak at the dinner, but they did request his presence,” Murray wrote in an email, obtained by The Post in a records request. “Not sure how to handle payment on this one?”

The Hickenloopers had used a state plane July 29, 2016, to fly to the Aspen home of Harman, a wealthy former congresswoman, and back to Denver that same night.

Harman was hosting powerful attendees of the Aspen Security Forum — she’s a trustee at the Aspen Institute and hosts an annual dinner for the forum’s speakers — and decided “having the governor appear would be appropriate,” she said in an email to The Post. Contradicting his scheduler, Harman says Hickenlooper made brief remarks at the private dinner.

Hickenlooper’s office paid for the day trip by sending $943 in taxpayer money to the State Patrol. The money came from a federal fund set aside for “essential government services” that Hickenlooper and a predecessor routinely spent on nonessential expenses. The same pool of federal money paid for Hickenlooper’s nearly $6,000 government plane trip to a resort town in Idaho that year, for a finance conference he spoke at.

The federal dollars had been used to buy a state plane in 2003, so Hickenlooper’s office reasoned they should also be used to pay for flights on that plane. Most flights were used to conduct state business, records show.

The Post began researching Hickenlooper’s use of the federal fund late last year, when it became apparent the governor’s office used it to pay for his ethics defense. Through interviews and records requests, details about trips such as this have been revealed in the months since.

Revelations about the use of the federal fund drew bipartisan attention in the General Assembly earlier this year. With budget writers staring down a massive shortfall, this may be the year they stop supplementing the old account, which was meant to help the state’s economy back in 2003.

In 2018, the General Assembly gave the governor’s office an additional $562,240 to cover expenses that are traditionally paid for out of the federal fund, because it believed the fund would run out of money that fiscal year. But it didn’t. In fact, there is currently about $935,000 in the account, according to a Department of Personnel and Administration spokesperson.

View original source: The Spot

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