Colorado Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll Tuesday called on gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis to withdraw from the race after the Denver Post published a story alleging the former six-term U.S. congressman plagiarized parts of several articles on water issues from current Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory J. Hobbs.
“The Denver Post’s story made it quite clear that Scott McInnis lacks the integrity to hold the office of governor,” Carroll said in a release. “It would be difficult for him to create any public trust, which is critical for this position.”
As reported by the Colorado Independent in June, McInnis was paid $300,000 as a senior fellow by the Hasan Family Foundation for work in 2005 and 2006 that included 12 articles entitled “Musings on Water (pdf).”
The Post contacted a Clemson University plagiarism expert to analyze the articles and concluded “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?’”
McInnis spokesman Sean Duffy told the Post that Rolly Fischer, a Glenwood Springs engineer who worked for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, was to blame for the articles that used Hobbs’ work without attribution. Fischer’s home phone is not listed in Glenwood Springs, and the Post reported he could not be reached for comment.
“Whether he plagiarized a Colorado Supreme Court Justice intentionally or paid someone to do so it doesn’t matter – he took sole credit for the work and he is solely to blame,” Carroll said. “I am appalled at this cynical act of dishonesty.”
Colorado Ethics Watch Tuesday issued a statement saying that, if true, McInnis could potentially be in violation of laws he swore to uphold when he became a lawyer. Democrats said the case evoked the case of former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill.
“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. 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,” Ethics Watch director Luis Toro said.
The Colorado Democratic Party, smelling blood in the political waters, called the plagiarism case the worst in Colorado history and asked if McInnis was fit to lead.
“The obvious plagiarism would have won him a failing grade in any school system in the country and should do so with Colorado voters,” Colorado Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak said in a release. “If he so willingly plagiarized on a topic he claims to be an expert in, how can he lead higher education in this state when his record is like Ward Churchill’s?”
The Colorado Statesman carried reaction from McInnis’s Aug. 10 primary opponent, Evergreen businessman Dan Maes:
“I think it’s important that we find the truth out, and if the truth reveals (the articles were) indeed plagiarized, it ultimately is the congressman’s responsibility no matter who did it,” Maes told The Statesman. “He can try to lay it on someone else, but ultimately, it’s his responsibility.”
Maes — who has had his own run of bad press recently over campaign finance allegations — stopped short of condemning his opponent. But that didn’t stop him from tweaking McInnis: “Maybe he isn’t as well versed in water as he leads everybody to believe he is.”
If the articles were plagiarized, McInnis might have to refund the money he was paid to write them, Maes suggested.
“I think he should be subject to whatever laws or policies apply in this situation if indeed he did plagiarize,” Maes said. “And if returning the money is one option, it should certainly be considered.”