2010 Colorado elections: Did Scott McInnis plagiarize some of his writings on water?

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Bump and Update: Here’s McInnis’ side from email from the campaign:

In 2005, I accepted a water fellowship with the non-profit Hasan Family Foundation. Part of this fellowship entailed compiling a series of articles designed to promote public understanding of historical water issues in Colorado.

In order to complete this project, I retained a renowned Colorado water expert. That expert, Rolly Fischer, spent nearly three decades with the Colorado River Water Conservation District , and is well-respected across the state. During our collaboration, he provided research for the articles.

Regrettably, it has now become clear that much of the research was in fact taken from other source material without proper attribution. While I do not believe that this was a deliberate act, it was a serious mistake.

It’s unacceptable, it’s inexcusable, but it was also unintentional.

I made a mistake, and should have been more vigilant in my review of research material Rolly submitted.

I’ve reached out to Justice Hobbs and the Hasan Family Foundation, and hope to meet with both in the not too distant future.

We all share a deep commitment to Colorado’s future. In the coming days, I hope we can put this matter behind us, and focus on solving the many problems that face our state.

More coverage from the Montrose Daily Press (Kristen Wyatt). From the article:

It wasn’t clear if McInnis spoke with Hobbs on Tuesday. An aide had said earlier that McInnis had apologized to Hobbs. Whole sections of McInnis’ “Musings On Water” about the history of Colorado water rights were identical to a 1984 piece that Hobbs wrote. McInnis’ essays were accompanied by a 2005 letter stating the essays were original.

I’m sure that Scott McInnis is hoping that his statement above kills the controversy. It might not. Here’s Denver Post columnist Mike Litwin:

In any case, McInnis made the “non issue” statement to Adam Schrager of 9News, saying that what interests Coloradans is jobs, which is clearly true. They’re interested in their jobs, and we’re all interested — I promise — in seeing how you get a McInnis-style job. In a McInnis job, you retire from Congress and then sign on for a $300,000 stipend from the Hasan Family Foundation to write a series of articles. Now, here’s the good part: In writing “Musings on Water,” you either copy someone else’s work — making the job much easier — or you outsource the job to someone else, who then copies the work, making your job easier still. According to McInnis, it was all a researcher’s fault, even though McInnis failed to mention any researcher when he turned in the articles. Meanwhile, the researcher, Rolly Fischer, a water expert, told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, “Scott’s responsible for it.” What we know for sure is that McInnis assured the foundation in a memo that the work was “original and not from any other source.” Yes, he did. And so, it’s pretty simple, really. Either McInnis cheated (plagiarizing someone’s work) or he lied (getting someone else to do his work) or both, and for a neat $300,000 payoff.

More coverage from the Associated Press via the Las Vegas Sun. From the article:

A former congressman, McInnis was paid $300,000 by a foundation for a three-year fellowship that included writing about water. When reporters questioned McInnis’s work for the Hasan Family Foundation, the group posted the essays on its website. The writings were not previously made public. The foundation says it may seek a refund from McInnis. McInnis is not planning to publicly apologize. His GOP primary challenger, Dan Maes, says McInnis should “man up” about the plagiarism.

More coverage from Tim Hoover writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

In an interview Tuesday with 9News, McInnis said he intended to “make it right” with the [Hasan Family Foundation]. “I’ll sit down with them. It’s a good foundation, good people. Have known ’em for a long time. I’ll go in, sit down with them, and we’ll discuss what we need to do,” he said.

More coverage from Karen Crummy writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

A Denver Post review of McInnis’ floor speeches and columns published during his congressional career found striking similarities between a 1995 speech and 1994 column by McInnis and a previously published Op-Ed in The Washington Post. “There is a growing popular belief in South Korea that the North has outmaneuvered Washington and marginalized the South’s role,” wrote Richard V. Allen and Daryl M. Plunk in a Washington Post Op-Ed published Nov. 9, 1994. Six weeks later, McInnis wrote in the Rocky Mountain News: “There is growing South Korean sentiment that North Korea has outmaneuvered Washington and marginalized the South’s input into this issue.” A month after that, he made the same statement on the House floor with only minor alteration…

McInnis on Tuesday declared the plagiarism of the water essays a “non-issue” that Colorado voters don’t care about. Although his campaign manager put out a statement late Monday saying McInnis believes the “buck stops” with him, McInnis spent Tuesday asserting that he failed only in that he did not monitor his research assistant closely enough. “We got faulty research,” McInnis told 9News. “This is a nonissue if it’s not a political year. Voters don’t really care about this issue. They care about jobs, getting back to work.” McInnis also told 9News he expected there were numerous other problems with the water essays he submitted as his own work. Rolly Fischer, a former engineer who McInnis said was responsible for lifting paragraphs and at least four full pages from work written by Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs, denied the charge. “Scott’s responsible for it,” he said to the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, and then declined to comment further. Contacted by a Denver Post reporter at his home Tuesday, Fischer declined to comment, saying, “I don’t trust the press.”

More coverage from The Denver Post. From the article:

Meanwhile, House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, called on McInnis to immediately drop out of the race. “The Denver Post’s story made it quite clear that Scott McInnis lacks the integrity to hold the office of Governor. It would be difficult for him to create any public trust, which is critical for this position,” said Carroll.

More coverage from John Colson writing for the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. From the article:

Long-time local resident Rolly Fischer on Tuesday declined to say much about his involvement in a research paper that gubernatorial candidate, and former Congressman Scott McInnis wrote to meet a fellowship deadline. “Scott’s responsible for it,” stated Fisher, an engineer who worked for the Colorado River Water Conservation for, when asked whether he was responsible for articles attributed to McInnis. Beyond that, Fisher said flatly, “I have nothing to say.”

More coverage from Talking Points Memo (Eric Lach):

Yesterday, Schaffer tweeted a link to the Denver Post story that broke the news, saying: “Family Foundation miffed it paid $300k to congressman for plagarized work & no-shows. Den. Post http://tw0.us/JYo #tcot #redco”

Maybe its personal? The backstory: In 2007, McInnis dropped out of a Senate primary battle with Schaffer, citing family reasons. Then, just days before Nov. 4, McInnis threw his fellow Republican under the bus, telling the press “I would have beat Udall” in the general election, and lamenting the “radical element” in his party.

More coverage from the Examiner (Ian Cerveny). From the article:

The Hasan Family Foundation released these plagiarism accusations through the Denver Post earlier this week, forcing McInnis to come clean on his sloppy partial authorship.

Not coincidentally, a member of the Hasan family entered into the 2010 race for state treasurer late last year. Ali Hasan, son of Hasan Family Foundation founders Malik and Seeme Hasan, was favored to finish strong in the assembly, but was instead routed by fellow Republican candidate JJ Ament. McInnis refused to endorse any candidates in that race, despite his close relationship with the Hasan family and the fellowship extended to McInnis by the Foundation in 2005 after he left Congress.

It is likely that the Hasan Family Foundation knew that McInnis was not entirely responsible for the articles published under his name five years ago, and they may have also been aware of the plagiarized content therein. The timing of these accusations smacks of a vendetta … one earned when McInnis failed to repay a favor by endorsing Ali Hasan for state treasurer.

The Foundation took the fight to their website on their Fellowship Page in a carefully worded denunciation of McInnis’ work as a senior fellow. [ed. Scroll down to McInnis’ area. The linked file is a .pdf}.

From the Hassan Family Foundation statement (Seeme Hasan):

In light of the accusations against Scott McInnis regarding plagiarism of articles to the Hasan Family Foundation, I am shocked, angry and disappointed. Any work related to the fellowship that Mr. McInnis submitted was always represented as final. At no time, whatsoever, did Mr. McInnis communicate that any of the work were “rough drafts.” Any representation that they were submitted to the Foundation as “rough drafts” is absolutely incorrect.

In addition, there were never discussions nor any knowledge by the Foundation that Mr. McInnis was working with a “research advisor.” If indeed Mr. McInnis was working with a “research advisor,” it was never brought to our attention, nor authorized. The work that the Foundation hired Mr. McInnis to do was to be done solely by Mr. McInnis, and not in concert with anyone else.

The Hasan Family Foundation takes the issue of plagiarism extremely seriously. At no time was it brought to our attention that Mr. McInnis used information not cited or unethically used work that was not his own. All work was represented to be original and final. We will conduct an independent, internal investigation and if the allegations are proven to be true, we will demand Mr. McInnis return all monies paid to him by the Foundation.

Jason Salzman (BigMedia.org) is on the very long list of journalists that are hoping to land an interview with Rolly Fisher. Here’s his blog post from earlier today. He writes:

So it’s going to take some work to get Fischer to tell his story, which deserves to be told. Maybe a blogger is the right person for the job? Someone who’s not a journalist.

More coverage of the Rolly Fischer backstory from Charles Ashby writing for The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

Embattled GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis said he didn’t know anything about why Rolly Fischer retired from the Colorado River Water Conservation District in 1996. At the same time, though, McInnis said the man he hired in 2005 and 2006 to do research for him for a series of water articles for the Hasan Family Foundation was an old friend whom he’s known for years. “Rollie is a friend,” McInnis told The Daily Sentinel on Tuesday. “The material I got sounded just like Rollie’s. I don’t know anything about that (why he left the district). The fact is, no matter what Rollie did on this research stuff, I should have caught it.”

More coverage from the NPR Blog (Frank James):

Polls in Colorado suggest a close race for governor between Denver mayor John Hickenlooper and former Republican Congressman Scott McInnis, that’s if McInnis gets past the impending primary. Recent polls show McInnis leading Hickenlooper by three to five percentage points. Which is why it’s worth paying attention to plagiarism charges against McInnis since they could have an impact on such a close race.

More coverage from The Colorado Independent (Scott Kersgaard). From the article:

Fischer was hired by the Colorado River Water Conservation District in 1958 as secretary-engineer. He was the district’s first and only employee at that time. As the district grew, so did Fischer’s job, which evolved into the position of general manager, even though he kept the secretary-engineer title until he left the district in 1996, according to district spokesman Chris Treese. By the time Fischer left the district, it employed 18 people and Fischer was the boss…

According to [Chris Treese, Colorado River District], the board of directors dismissed Fischer for reasons that were not made public. Treese acknowledged, though, that the dismissal followed a series of articles in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Those articles are not available on the Sentinel’s web site, but in Tuesday’s paper, reporter Charles Ashby characterized the articles thusly: “Fischer retired in 1996 after The Daily Sentinel published a series of articles showing that the river district hired two companies operated by his wife, Tillie, without going to a competitive bid. Fischer was part owner of those businesses, which handled payroll accounts and general administrative functions.”

More coverage from The Colorado Statesman (Ernest Luning):

There’s little love lost between McInnis — who weighed entering the 2008 Senate race but stepped aside, leaving the field to the eventual nominee — and Schaffer, who served alongside McInnis in Congress for three terms and currently sits on the Colorado Board of Education. A week before the election, with Schaffer down in the polls, McInnis boasted to the online news site The Colorado Independent that he “would have beat Udall,” and said his “biggest threat was getting through the primary.” He blamed “radical elements” in his own party for thwarting his ambitions.

The director of the left-leaning Colorado Ethics Watch organization said McInnis’ possible breach could land him afoul of rules governing attorneys licensed to practice law in the state. “The reports that Congressman McInnis’ water essays for the Hasan Family Foundation contained plagiarized material, if true, raise serious questions about McInnis’ compliance with the ethics rules that apply to all Colorado lawyers,” said Ethics Watch boss Luis Toro in a statement. “The Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct specifically warn lawyers against conduct involving dishonesty or misrepresentation and against failure to adequately supervise their non-attorney staff.”[…]

A spokesman for Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for governor, didn’t return telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment on the McInnis charges. But the mayor told The Denver Post editorial board on Tuesday the allegations “create a cloud” over his potential opponent, Post opinion writer Chuck Plunkett wrote on the newspaper’s political blog. Hickenlooper also said he wouldn’t hire a “known plagiarist,” according to Plunkett.

More coverage from the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams). From the article:

Colorado Republican Party chair Dick Wadhams – presumably one of those radical elements – was none too happy with McInnis at the time but rushed to his defense Tuesday, blasting outgoing Colorado Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll for saying McInnis should withdraw and throwing some mud Democratic gubernatorial hopeful John Hickenlooper’s way in the process: “I know it must be difficult for Terrance Carroll to understand how irrelevant he is as a lame duck state representative. But while he’s on his moral high horse today, maybe he can tell Coloradans if Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was lying in Copenhagen when he attacked skeptics of global warming or was Hickenlooper lying to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association when he said he himself was a skeptic of global warming,” Wadhams said.

A few weeks back there was a bit of controversy over the availability of a series of articles about water that Scott McInnis was paid $300,000 to write by the Hasan Family Foundation. When they became available I read through them, sending my comments to Jason Salzman at BigMedia.org. I gave McInnis the benefit of the doubt for the content since he had been directed to write at a level that most readers could understand. I questioned some of his facts but in general found that the articles were accurate and interesting. The problem is that McInnis appears to have plagiarized some of the writing. Here’s a report from Karen Crummy writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Although GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis presented his “Musings on Water” for publication as original works, portions are identical and nearly identical to an essay on water written 20 years earlier by now-Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory J. Hobbs. A Clemson University expert who reviewed McInnis’ work next to Hobbs’ essay called it a clear case of plagiarism of both words and ideas…

In at least four of those articles, McInnis’ work mirrors Hobbs’ 1984 essay published by the Colorado Water Congress, “Green Mountain Reservoir: Lock or Key?” In one of his installments of the musings, titled “Pumpbacks and Roundtables,” McInnis uses four full pages that are nearly reprinted verbatim from Hobbs’ earlier work. The justice reviewed examples of his work and McInnis’ essays provided by The Denver Post and released a statement through court spokesman Rob McCallum. “There are definite similarities,” Hobbs said. “I would expect there would be some attribution.”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

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