An ethics complaint against Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), which was filed by a Colorado-based watchdog organization, may have its roots in research by a national Republican firm that targets Democrats, according to state documents revealed today.
The accusations in the complaint against Hickenlooper are based on records that appear to have been first released not to the Public Trust Institute (PTI), which has been the local face of the complaint, but to America Rising, a national Republican opposition research firm.
Today’s documents, obtained from a source, confirm a July 29 post by Colorado Public Radio, which reported that a document in the ethics case against Hickenlooper “implies that an employee of America Rising Corp., an opposition research group, conducted the original public records research for the complaint against Hickenlooper.”
The story starts as early as March 2018, when Hickenlooper’s office provided his out-of-state travel expenses to Allan Blutstein, an America Rising Vice President, who asked for them via an open records request, according to a March 23 letter from Hickenlooper’s office.
About four months later, in July, Politico reported that America Rising PAC was “well into a beneath-the-radar effort to define — and ultimately derail — the Democrats preparing to take on President Donald Trump in 2020,” which would include Hickenlooper who was running for President at the time. Colorado Rising Action also formed around the same time.
About three months later, in October, PTI was established in Colorado.
Two days after it was formed, PTI filed its ethics complaint against Hickenlooper, using documents that appear to have been obtained by America Rising.
In a motion filed today, Hickenlooper’s attorney stated the PTI’s Frank McNulty, a former Republican state House Speaker, confirmed that there was another group or individual involved in the development of the complaint. From the motion:
Respondent seeks the production of communications between McNulty and America Rising Corp., America Rising LLC, or any other non-privileged entity or person (including investigators or lawyers whose participation was confirmed by McNulty to IEC staff but whose identity has been withheld from Respondent and the public) that led to the development of the filed pleadings and other materials the Commission is empowered to consider in rendering a decision in these matters.
Since its creation, PTI has taken two ethics-related actions, both against Democrats. It’s registered as a non-tax deductible organization, allowing it to engage in more political activities than other types of nonprofits.
McNulty declined to tell Colorado Public Radio last week whether America Raising supplied him with the research that forms the basis of his complaint. America Rising’s involvement would likely not be illegal, so it’s not clear why McNulty would decline to say where he obtained his documents, particularly because his organization touts transparency and openness.
McNulty was unable to be reached Friday evening, but he previously stated, “As we were going through this investigation [of Hick] it became clear that there was a need for an entity to call balls and strikes, to simply let the public know about these things. We also view PTI as a means of praising and raising up those elected officials who really are holding forward as the model of public service, who doing this thing by the book and doing a really good job.”