On the Political Plagiarism Front – Non-issue or Critical Issue?

Posted by David Rothschild on Jul 28, 2010 2:27:00 PM

scott mcinnis 136x150 resized 600The newest case of political plagiarism to hit the newsstands involves Colorado gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis. 

McInnis was caught plagiarizing large portions of “Musings on Water,” which was written in 1984 by current Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs.

It seems that every new case of political plagiarism further raises questions about the integrity and ability of our candidates.  Here’s a quick look at McInnis’ missteps:

Not only did McInnis plagiarize a well-known article on water conservation, but he was being paid $300,000 for his efforts by the Hassan Family Foundation, a non-profit organization. The organization is currently demanding that McInnis repays the money.

McInnis immediately placed the blame for plagiarism on 82-Year Old Rolly Fisher, a Colorado water expert who helped research the content.   McInnis’ initial statement on the plagiarism scandal read:

“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.”

Mr. Fisher claims that McInnis never let him know the research was to be published, and otherwise would have cited his good friend, Justice Hobbs,before passing the research off.

Even worse, the McInnis campaign went on to try to force Rolly Fisher to accept full responsibility for the plagiarism, pressuring the water expert to sign an affidavit admitting guilt.

An interview between McInnis and CALL7 Denver Investigative Reporter John Ferrugia reveals more of the blame game:

“Did you write the articles or did you edit them?” Ferrugia asked McInnis on Tuesday.

“Hindsight being perfect, I would have,” McInnis said. “No, I can, I mean, the articles were written with staff assistance. Just like when I do a bill in Congress or when I did the forest plan, I had a lot of staff assistance. I had a lot of economic experts.”

“So you never checked his work?” Ferrugia asked.

“Lesson learned,” McInnis said. “You know, three or four decades, I’ve known [Rollie] all my life. He’s a man of complete integrity, he’s a credible guy, so, no, I didn’t, that’s where a mistake was made.”

The extent of McInnis’ deception is still unclear.  However, one thing is clear: There was an easily avoidable ethical breach under this man’s watch.  And as much as McInnis continues to call this entire episode a “non-issue”, if you cannot effectively govern a $300,000 research project, we shouldn’t hesitate to question your ability to govern Colorado. 

Rest assured, more and more political campaigns will determine that using modern plagiarism detection software could be the difference in winning or losing a race.


Burke, Tom Kane, Arthur and Ferrugia, John. “Researcher Says Scott McInnis Lied” TheDenverChannel.com 14 July 2010. http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/24260453/detail.html

Harrison, Wayne. “McInnis Campaign Staffers Resign Over Plagiarism Flap” TheDenverChannel.com 16 July 2010 http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/24291096/detail.html

Topics: Current Events