An apology to Scott McInnis
H/T Jen Raiffie
I was fairly brutal to Scott McInnis during the 2010 Colorado gubernatorial campaign. To be sure, I wasn't alone, and I did slightly prefer McInnis to Dan Maes even after the news of McInnis' "plagiarism" came to light.
In short, I said that Dan Maes was unqualified and Scott McInnis was disqualified.
The short version of the story as it was reported, and as I believe it, was that Scott McInnis hired a researcher to write a paper on water issues to fulfill McInnis' responsibility to the Hasan Family Foundation which had hired McInnis to write the paper. Further, the researcher copied without attribution (plagiarized) large sections of an older paper on the same topic by a gentleman who is now a Colorado State Supreme Court Justice, Gregory Hobbs. Then McInnis presented the paper to the Hasans as his own work.
The problems with McInnis' behavior appeared multiple and serious.
But new documents (also embedded below in this note) from the Colorado Supreme Court's Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel (ain't that a mouthful?) report that that office's investigation has found ample evidence that Scott McInnis was not guilty of essentially all of these charges -- charges that I had rhetorically convicted him of in my writings, in no small part because McInnis either didn't deny them at the time or didn't do so in a way that anybody heard or believed.
[Note: I have not verified the authenticity of these documents. If they are fraudulent, then this article is also in error. I think they're real but I do have to say that the investigators' misspelling of McInnis' researcher's last name "Fisher" when it's "Fischer" does make one wonder.]
Bullet points from the Attorney Regulation Counsel's findings:
- McInnis told his research assistant, Rollie Fischer, not to plagiarize while the researcher was drafting articles
- Fischer alone chose to plagiarize (and still claims what he did wasn't plagiarism)
- Fischer did not tell McInnis that he had used Justice Hobbs' work in the article
- McInnis told Fischer that the articles would be used by the Hasan Family Foundation
- Fischer knew that McInnis would be using the articles only under McInnis' name; Fischer was not intended to get credit
- And one of the most important points: McInnis told the Hasan Family Foundation in writing that he was using a research assistant, "contrary to the Foundation's representation in its press release in 2010." Ms. Hasan "said she had just simply forgot about that particular communication."
The investigators conclude "Thus, based on the facts uncovered in the investigation and related depositions and interviews, there is no clear and convincing evidence of any dishonest conduct by Mr. McInnis. For these reasons, the matter has been dismissed."
I would like to both reiterate a sincere apology to Mr. McInnis for my harsh treatment of him during that campaign, but I also think that an explanation is relevant -- especially since I'm sure there are other activists and bloggers who share my views on this.
First, while there were insinuations at the time that the Hasans wanted to torpedo Mr. McInnis' campaign because McInnis would not support the candidacy of Muhammed Ali Hasan for the office of state treasurer, the simple fact that there was plagiarism in the article McInnis submitted to them caused me to give the Foundation the benefit of the doubt when they said what they said.
Second, at the time someone close to the campaign told me that Mr. Fisher was going to take responsibility for the whole thing. But then he didn't, which just added to my (incorrect) conclusion that McInnis was looking for a fall guy, but the old man wouldn't play along.
Third, McInnis apologized to the Hasans and offered them a refund of the money they paid him to write the paper, hardly the actions of a man who had acted properly. In retrospect, maybe he was just trying to put the whole thing behind him and take responsibility in the most honorable way possible. But the circumstances were such that the most positive spin on it was very difficult to believe.
Look, I was never a Scott McInnis fan, but I certainly preferred him to Dan Maes, a self-aggrandizing wannabe of the worst sort. McInnis was a plastic glad-handing politician of the worst sort. Just barely better than Maes, but definitely better. I wasn't looking for a reason to attack McInnis. And I don't think that I and the many others who said and wrote similarly to me were guilty of jumping to outrageous conclusions given all the evidence, not least because McInnis himself gave us little or no reason to believe the worst.
But our conclusions -- my conclusions -- were wrong.
I don't think that I or the collected influence of the various conservative bloggers in the state who turned against McInnis was enough to make any real difference, though it's not impossible that much of the "undervote" in the race was due to people like me calling for Republicans to skip that part of their ballots.
But if McInnis himself had done even a half-decent job of proving any of what the investigators have now reported, there's a reasonable chance that we'd have a Republican governor in Colorado today. Sure, maybe not the best Republican one could imagine, but a mostly conservative guy nonetheless during the critical fight over redistricting where having a Republican governor could be of great benefit to the GOP and the state for a decade to come.
At the end of the day it's the candidate's responsibility to deal with charges against him. Another way to put it: I would have been very happy to try to disseminate evidence of McInnis' innocence had he provided any. Instead, I was left to report what the weight of the evidence seemed to show, leaving us with a fatally wounded candidacy and delivering us a Democrat governor in a year which should have been a Republican triumph -- and the negative coattails of which also hurt Republicans in State House and State Senate elections.
I'm sorry that what I reported about McInnis turned out to be in error (though not my error) and that my conclusions were therefore in error. But I'm sorrier that the candidate himself let it get to that.
In the end, I'm glad for Scott McInnis that he's been exonerated. He deserves for as many people to learn about this as learned the erroneous story about how the "plagiarism" happened in the first place. You can be sure that there will be little or no "mainstream" media coverage of this story, but I feel it to be my responsibility and that of influential Republican bloggers and activists to at least pass this around and help McInnis clear his name in public. Scott McInnis may not be my cup of tea, but fair is fair.
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