DENVER (CBS4) – Advisers to John Hickenlooper urged the governor to kill a potential bill donors didn’t like — one that would raise salaries for sheriffs and the governor’s office — because it would have political ramifications.
Hickenlooper’s admission to Colorado sheriffs was captured on video in June at an Aspen conference of sheriffs and released on Tuesday on the conservative website Revealing Politics. In the video, Hickenlooper said some donors didn’t want pay raises for some government workers.
The governor said he didn’t dislike the bill, which would have awarded raises to the governor, secretary of state, attorney general and county sheriffs, but told sheriffs that because it was an election year, his office felt pressured.
“In my group of people, they were in a tizzy,” Hickenlooper said. “Part of who called into my senior staff were these large donors.
“And they’re out there busting their butts trying to call people and raise money and they think I’m signing something like that. Now, I’m not defending. I’m just saying that we got calls from very successful business people saying, ‘Don’t you go near signing something like that in an election year.’ ”
In the end, Hickenlooper didn’t have to. The legislature never introduced the bill. The governor said he had nothing to do with it: “We didn’t say we were going to veto it, to my knowledge. I never said that.”
The sponsors of the bill disagree on what Hickenlooper said, but they do agree the bill became a political liability for other lawmakers, too.
Hickenlooper told Colorado’s sheriffs he agreed with legislation aimed at giving county and statewide elected officials a raise, their first in 12 years. The governor did sign bills that raised pay for other state workers.
“I get that you’re not going to have good sheriffs if you can’t pay them competitive dollars, not going to have a good attorney general, not going to have a good secretary of state,” Hickenlooper said.
It was the same video in which Hickenlooper backpedaled on gun-control legislation he signed.
He admitted in tongue-in-cheek fashion that, in Colorado, only rich people like himself could afford to run for public office.
“Not everybody is lucky enough to be in the restaurant business in LoDo when LoDo was a $1 a square foot and buy a bunch of real estate and then have it explode and all of a sudden I got rich. ‘Small rich,’ compared to people around you here now (in Aspen), ‘small rich,’ but still rich,” Hickenlooper joked to sheriffs.
“If I find myself re-elected then I will figure out the right way to do it politically,” Hickenlooper said. “I’m giving you the honest-to-God facts. I was in business for 20 years. You can’t be in business and tell lies.”
One of Hickenlooper’s senior advisers told CBS4 it wasn’t just donors who recommended killing the bill but that all of his top aides advised he pass on the bill, warning it would spur attacks ads in an election year.
Hickenlooper faces Bob Beauprez, a former U.S. House representative and gubernatorial candidate, in a re-election battle.