Nonprofit watchdog files complaint against Hickenlooper's Senate campaign alleging illegal coordination

'Federal law prohibits candidates from coordinating with super PACs on advertising'

A Washington, D.C. based nonprofit watchdog filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against John Hickenlooper's U.S. Senate campaign this week, accusing the former Colorado governor of illegally coordinating with an outside group.

The complaint, from the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), accuses the Senate Majority PAC of partnering with Hickenlooper's campaign to push out a series of advertisements, despite laws to the contrary.

"Federal law prohibits candidates from coordinating with super PACs on advertising and separately prohibits super PACs from republishing campaign materials," the document states. "On June 13, 2020, Hickenlooper for Colorado posted written materials for an advertisement on a website called getthefacts.co -- a website separate from his campaign one that evidently has another purpose."

The 501 (c)(3) claimed Hickenlooper requested that the PAC run a specific advertisement and "just 12 days later the super PAC ran the ad, republishing both the campaign's written materials and Hickenlooper's b-roll video.

The Senate Majority PAC is at the forefront of Democratic efforts to regain the congressional upper chamber in November and is aligned with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

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"The facts demonstrate there was coordination between Hickenlooper’s campaign and Senate Majority PAC. Hickenlooper posted a ‘request or suggestion’ ask using language we have seen several times in the past," said Kendra Arnold, executive director of FACT, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

She added, "The fact that 12 days after the ask was published Senate Majority PAC ran the advertisement leads me to believe there was coordination between the campaign and super PAC."

The state Independent Ethics Commission voted unanimously to find Hickenlooper in violation of the Colorado Constitution and ethics laws last month, specifically in relation to the state's gift ban. Colorado law at the time prohibited gifts worth more than $59 to elected officials with limited exceptions. That figure is now $65.

The complaint specifically cited trips Hickenlooper took to Italy and a corporate-paid VIP trip he took on a private jet owned by billionaire Larry Mizel’s company MDC Holdings, to Connecticut. He was traveling to preside at the commissioning of the USS Colorado, a U.S. Navy submarine. MDC Holdings is a large developer within the state.

"Hickenlooper has spent the last week refusing to testify, ignoring subpoenas, and being found in contempt because he didn’t want to answer for his serious disregard for Colorado's ethics laws," said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez last month. "He is guilty of shrugging off the state's ethics rules and violating the trust taxpayers had placed in him as Governor. Now he has to defend taxpayers footing the bill for his $525-an-hour lawyer out of a post-9/11 economic recovery fund."

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Fox News reached out to Hickenlooper about the complaint to ask if he had, in fact, violated the law by illegally coordinating campaign advertising efforts with the PAC. His office issued a brief statement that attempted to flip the script on his Republican opponent Cory Gardner, without directly answering the question at hand.

"The website is public, and we put the information there to make sure Coloradans who want the facts can get them--just as Coloradans deserve the facts on the Senate Ethics complaints against Senator Gardner for improperly using official footage in a campaign ad and attending a lavish 'by-invitation bacchanal' hosted by a foreign company that lobbies Congress," spokeswoman Melissa Miller said.

Gardner's communications director Jerrod Dobkin responded, telling Fox News: "There is only one Senate candidate in Colorado who has been found guilty of ethics violations and that is John Hickenlooper.”

Fox News' Paul Steinhauser and Gregg Re contributed to this report