By Ernest Luning
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Saying charges Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis plagiarized portions of articles he received more than a quarter million dollars to write rendered him unfit for office, Colorado House Speaker Terrance Carroll on Tuesday called on the former six-term congressman to withdraw from the statewide race.
McInnis is on the August 10 primary ballot along with Evergreen businessman and political neophyte Dan Maes, who took top line at the state assembly with heavy support from conservative GOP delegates.
“Coloradans deserve better than Scott McInnis,” Carroll, a Denver Democrat, said in a statement. “The right thing for McInnis would be to withdraw from this race.”
The statements flew fast and furious in the wake of revelations first reported in The Denver Post on Monday that the former congressman handed in water policy articles to a Colorado nonprofit that appeared to share lengthy passages with a 1984 article written by current Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs.
The Hasan Family Foundation paid McInnis $300,000 over two years for the articles. Monday night, the foundation’s chief said if the plagiarism charge bore out, she wanted McInnis to return the bounty.
On Wednesday, The Denver Post editorial board joined a chorus urging McInnis to “throw in the towel” on his gubernatorial bid, labeling the instances of plagiarism uncovered by its reporter “inexcusable intellectual thievery.”
Declaring that Colorado’s governor “should be a person of integrity,” the Post’s staff editorial concluded the wrongdoing it unearthed “is so damaging that we believe McInnis ought to drop out of the race.”
Another newspaper stopped short of calling for McInnis to admit defeat but still said it was time for the candidate to come clean.
“The explanation had better be good and it should improve on the original, which involved using a spokesman to pass the blame to a researcher,” editorialized the Colorado Springs Gazette.
“This is the worst case of political plagiarism in Colorado history,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman Pat Waak in a statement that asked whether McInnis was “fit to govern.”
Perhaps the most telling message, however, was a straight-faced tweet from Fort Collins Republican Bob Schaffer, who lost a U.S. Senate bid in 2008 to Democrat Mark Udall in a race McInnis said — on the eve of the election — that he could have won.
“Family Foundation miffed it paid $300k to congressman for plagarized work & no-shows,” read a dispatch Schaffer sent Tuesday morning to his Twitter followers. The tweet included a link to Tuesday’s Denver Post story by Karen Crummy.
There’s little love lost between McInnis — who considered entering the 2008 Senate race before stepping aside — 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.”
Waak’s broadside invoked another infamous accused Colorado plagiarist. Her statement tied McInnis to disgraced former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, who was pilloried by Colorado Republicans for his academic transgressions.
“Coloradans must now seriously question Scott McInnis’ ethics and integrity,” Waak said. “Whether he plagiarized a researcher’s work or the work of another, the result is the same. This and other incidents raise doubts about whether he can be trusted.
“The obvious plagiarism would have won him a failing grade in any school system in the country and should do so with Colorado voters. 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?”
Carroll, himself an attorney, blasted McInnis with both barrels:
“The Denver Post’s story made it quite clear that Scott McInnis lacks the integrity to hold the office of Governor,” said Carroll. “It would be difficult for him to create any public trust, which is critical for this position.
“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 Republican Chairman Dick Wadhams sneered at Carroll’s remarks in a statement released soon after a news conference held by the term-limited legislator.
“I know it must be difficult for Terrance Carroll to understand how irrelevant he is as a lame duck state representative,” Wadhams said. “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.”
A spokesman for Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for governor, declined to comment on the charges dogging McInnis.
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,” Plunkett reported.