DENVER - The average Joe wouldn't be surprised to learn that major supporters of politicians influence their decisions, but rarely does a politician just come right out and say so.
That's what Gov. John Hickenlooper appears to do in a clip of video, obtained by Colorado-based conservative group Revealing Politics, though the Hickenlooper campaign disputes that interpretation.
In a newly-released video clip from the same Aspen event in which the governor apologized to a group of sheriffs for new gun-control policies, the governor was asked to explain why his office opposed an effort to raise pay for public officials in this year's legislative session.
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The legislation, which might have raised pay for the governor and sheriffs, never actually materialized as a bill in this year's legislative session.
The sheriffs believe the governor's opposition to the idea is part of the reason why the bill never got off the launchpad and asked about that.
"Part of who called into my senior staff were these large donors," Hickenlooper told the roomful of sheriffs. "In Colorado, nobody donates more than $1,100, so there's no corruption."
Hickenlooper continued, explaining that the people who called are "busting their butts" to raise money for campaigns and wouldn't be pleased with the optics of politicians raising their own pay.
"We got calls from very successful business people saying 'Don't you dare go near signing something like that in an election year,'" Hickenlooper said in the video.
Officials with Hickenlooper's re-election campaign say the governor was trying to express that his supporters were pointing out the political danger of voting to raise the governor's salary, an action that could be used against him by opposing campaigns.
The campaign says the donors in question were merely trying to help Hickenlooper to help his own political future, not asking for any sort of favor from the governor.
"The governor was opposed to a raise for himself and statewide officials, not opposed to a raise for sheriffs," said Eddie Stern, a spokesperson for the governor's campaign."He frankly discussed that his supporters woke him up to the unfortunate political reality that negative campaigns would distort these pay increases in an election year. That's not rocket science."
Earlier in the video, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle, a Democrat, expressed concern that he was paid significantly less than his undersheriffs, making it difficult to find subordinates willing to be groomed as possible replacements.
The governor engaged in a lengthy exchange about the low levels of pay for elected officials in Colorado and said that it may discourage good people from seeking office.
At least one version of the proposed legislation would have forbid the pay raise from applying to current officeholders, such as Hickenlooper, only giving the raise to future officials.
When a sheriff (not seen on camera) asked about that aspect of the legislation, the governor denied that keeping his own salary low would fend of political attacks over the bill in the election cycle.
"That doesn't matter in an election year," the governor replied.
Despite discussing pressure in his office against the measure, the governor disputed the notion that he went so far as to threaten a veto of the pay raise bill.
"We didn't say we're going to veto it, to my knowledge," Hickenlooper said in the video. "To be honest I think we probably would have signed it."
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