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Governor Should Turn Down Free Ride

Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012

There should be an adage for public figures: “there is no such thing as a free ride.”

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper recently accepted a Chrysler Ram 1500 plug-in hybrid pickup truck from officials at Tri-State Generation, a utility company. His only obligation is to keep track of mileage and maintenance, and allow Chrysler to interview divers who use the vehicle.

The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission ruled the gift was offered to the governor’s office, not the governor, so it does not violate the state’s gift ban. In the advisory opinion, the commission provided what I think is good reason for him to decline the offer of the vehicle.

“The commission is concerned about the appearance of impropriety that could arise in the context of this arrangement. Tri-State is a high-profile business in the state that is active in public policy, including robust representation in administrative proceedings ad at the legislature.”

Hickenlooper’s office argues the transparency of the contract should avoid any appearance of impropriety, but I doubt the public is focusing on the contract. What they see is the state’s top elected official getting a free ride and appearing to endorse a product – a troubling perception for taxpayers and a slippery slope for the governor.

Tags: gifts

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