By Ernest Luning
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
UPDATED with response from McInnis
The foundation that paid Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis $300,000 for a series of articles on water rights the candidate admits included material he didn’t write wants its money back.
McInnis said Friday afternoon he plans to “make full payment arrangements” and asserted “this brings this matter to a close” in a statement issued by his campaign.
It’s the latest development in a plagiarism scandal that has rocked Colorado’s political landscape since The Denver Post reported on Monday that articles McInnis wrote as part of a fellowship with the nonprofit included lengthy passages copied from a 1984 article written by a water lawyer who now sits on the Colorado Supreme Court.
In a statement issued Friday morning, the Hasan Family Foundation demanded McInnis “repay all monies paid to him” under a fellowship awarded the former six-term congressman. Not only did McInnis plagiarize the work he did turn in, the foundation charged, but he accomplished “only a fraction of the work he was obligated to perform” during the two-year fellowship.
“I have said since this matter was brought to my attention that the articles provided as part of the Hasan Family Foundation fellowship were faulty,” McInnis said in response to the foundation’s demand. “I explained how this problem arose, and I accepted responsibility.
“I apologized to the Hasans for this mistake, and I expressed my determination to make it right with my dear friends. I will be in contact with the Hasan family to make full payment arrangements. I agree with the Foundation that this brings this matter to a close, and I look forward to continuing to speak on the campaign trail about the critical issues facing all of Colorado, including jobs and economic recovery.”
On Monday night, a spokesman for the Pueblo-based foundation said its board would commission an independent investigation to determine the truth of allegations McInnis plagiarized his work for the foundation.
McInnis admitted that roughly a dozen articles submitted under his byline included lengthy passages written by a “research assistant,” retired water engineer Rolly Fischer, including passages lifted verbatim from a decades-old article written by Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs. McInnis blamed Fischer for handing him the writing without attribution, but in an interview Wednesday with KMGH-TV reporter John Ferrugia, Fischer said McInnis was lying and that he never knew the background material he gathered for McInnis was intended to be used in articles.
As the revelations broke earlier this week, Dr. Malik Hasan – who doesn’t sit on the board of the foundation but told The Statesman he recommended McInnis for the fellowship – said the plagiarism charges amounted to a “double disappointment” because McInnis hadn’t fulfilled other obligations during his tenure with the philanthropic body.
McInnis signed on for what the foundation thought would be full-time work educating the public on the intricacies of Colorado water rights, which are in constant tension with the rights held by downstream states, and then immediately took another job with a major law firm. McInnis assured Hasan he’d still get his work done.
“But to tell you the truth,” Hasan told The Statesman, “I was disappointed both with the quantity and the quality of work he put into it. Now that I’m hearing even the small amount of work he put in — the news seems he may have plagiarized it — that’s a double disappointment.”
Friday’s statement from foundation Chairwoman Seeme Hasan faulted McInnis for failing to do what he said he would do, on top of plagiarizing the work he did complete:
“It is the finding of the Hasan Family Foundation Board that the work Congressman Scott McInnis performed under the Senior Fellowship was only a fraction of the work he was obligated to perform under the terms of his Fellowship. Of the little work that he did, he has admitted it was neither fully completed by him, nor fully original. In view of the public disclosure by Mr. McInnis as well as by Mr. Rolly Fischer, it is clear that Mr. McInnis has not fulfilled the terms of our agreement, and there is no need for any further investigation by the Foundation.”
A spokesman for the foundation said it wouldn’t comment further on the controversy and instead “will immediately return its full attention to the worthy causes it proudly funds and oversees.”