DENVER — While Coloradans continue to deal with some the highest cost of living increases in the nation, two members of Colorado’s congressional delegation flew more than 5,000 miles away — under the radar — to meet and mingle with members of the international elite in Davos, Switzerland.
However, neither Sen. John Hickenlooper or Rep. Joe Neguse, both Democrats, made much effort to publicize their travel plans–despite the high profile nature of the event–as neither of the elected officials’ websites made any mention of the Davos trip leading up to the gathering. It is not clear who paid for the trips or what mode of air travel they used: commercial, government or privately owned..
Hickenlooper’s Washington office did not return multiple requests for comment, and a staffer in Neguse’s office said he would not discuss the trip while he was still in Europe.
However, in an email to Complete Colorado, the US Embassy in Bern, Switzerland confirmed both men attended the forum which ran from May 23-26. Neguse had not returned from Europe as of Friday. It was not clear if Hickenlooper, who was a featured panel speaker, had returned.
The World Economic Forum is an annual meeting held in Switzerland and attended by the world’s richest citizens, businesses and government officials in the name of problem solving around such things as climate change and the economy. This year, the organization created the “New Davos Manifesto,” which the founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab summed up as: “… companies should pay their fair share of taxes, show zero tolerance for corruption, uphold human rights throughout the global supply chains, and advocate for a competitive level playing field.”
The new manifesto aims for what it calls “stakeholder capitalism,” which puts private businesses in control of driving the “social and environmental challenges” of today. The manifesto give’s a Swedish teenage climate activist credit for gaining momentum, calling it the “Greta Thunberg effect.”
The new principles the forum pushed are standards that include:
- “Shared value creation should include “environmental, social, and governance” (ESG) goals as a complement to standard financial metrics.”
- Executive remuneration where “salaries should instead align with the new measure of long-term shared value creation.”
- “All companies should still seek to harness their core competencies and maintain an entrepreneurial mindset. But they should also work with other stakeholders to improve the state of the world in which they are operating.”
Hickenlooper, who violated public trust when he was found guilty by Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission for accepting free air travel and dinners, was a panelist on the breakout session titled “Rebuilding Societal Trust.”
Hickenlooper accepted free trips on a private plane and dinners surrounding the commissioning of the USS Colorado in Connecticut, as well as transportation and meals among other things during a “meeting” trip to Italy. Both ethics violations occurred in in 2018 when Hickenlooper was governor.
In the session, Hickenlooper told attendees, “The Senate and the House has really struggled to find their bearings.”
Hickenlooper blamed the division in the Senate for a backlog in trying to solve the country’s biggest problems, saying now is the best time ever to solve such things as pandemic preparedness and immigration.
“Energy, we can’t accelerate fast enough the need to address climate change,” Hickenlooper said. “And yet we saw if you are not careful, and you have not done sufficient planning the price of crude oil can swing up and down and out of control. And working people, the people who can least afford to deal with the consequences, are suddenly spending $100 to fill up their automobile with gasoline.”
Hickenlooper said there is also an “endless review” of information that has only gotten worse with the rise of social media and cable media.
“So now, one misstatement … is repeated endlessly,” he said, adding candidates for office in 2020 had to carefully craft every statement. “If a politician says something wrong, it will be used as a bludgeon against them in their next campaign.”
While Hickenlooper and Neguse did not make public their need to be at the forum, a story by Associated Press said it’s up in the air whether the annual meeting is actually productive.
“Soaring inflation, Russia’s war in Ukraine, squeezed supply chains, the threat of food insecurity around the world … The risks to the global economy are many, leading to an increasingly gloomy view of the months ahead for corporate leaders, government officials and other VIPs … in the Swiss resort town,” the story says. “Elites huddle every year to discuss ways to help save the world, though it’s unclear how much concrete action the meeting produces.”
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