Scott McInnis should drop out of race

Scott McInnis was a good representative for western Colorado for two decades, first in the state Legislature, then in Congress. The Daily Sentinel had every expectation that he would be our choice for governor this year.

But, based on the information that has become public over the past few days, we can no longer support him. He should withdraw from the campaign.

McInnis can make a reasonable case that he didn’t know of the plagiarism that initiated this whole scandal. Words lifted from the writings of now-Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs were included in papers McInnis submitted to the Hasan Family Foundation, and for which he was paid handsomely. It was Rolly Fischer, the retired water engineer from Glenwood Springs, who took Hobbs’ words and included them in research he prepared for McInnis. Fischer has admitted as much.

But Fischer also told Channel 7 News in Denver he believed he was preparing raw research for McInnis to use as background in a future Senate race, not a final product that McInnis would submit to the Hasan Family Foundation for possible publication. Fischer said he would have checked with Hobbs and fully attributed the parts taken from Hobbs’ writing if he had known how it was to be used.

In addition, Fischer told Channel 7 News he never agreed to take full responsibility for what occurred, as the McInnis campaign has claimed. In fact, he said he refused to sign a letter to that effect, which was written by the McInnis campaign and sent to Fischer to sign. “I would never sign something like that,” he told Channel 7.

McInnis has said he takes full responsibility for the plagiarism, adding that he should have thoroughly checked Fischer’s work. But at the same time, he says repeatedly that it was Fischer who actually committed the plagiarism and that he, McInnis, didn’t have time to double-check everything Fischer provided to him.

As for Fischer’s claim that McInnis misled him about how the information was to be used, McInnis has only said, “Rolly knew what it was for.”

There are other things that raise questions about McInnis’ credibility. Perhaps most damning are the differing stories of what he told the Hasan foundation about the writings. After the foundation said earlier this week that McInnis had told it the writings he submitted were original and his own, McInnis told hosts on Denver’s KHOW radio, “I did not sign a statement saying this is original.”

But the foundation produced a 2005 memo for The Denver Post that was not signed by McInnis, but was titled from “Scott McInnis, Senior Fellow.” McInnis served a two-year fellowship with the foundation. In the memo, McInnis said, “All the articles are original and not reprinted from other sources.”

On Thursday, McInnis told The Daily Sentinel that he had written the memo because, at the time, he didn’t know Fischer had taken part of the material from Hobbs’ writings. McInnis was engaging in semantics when he told KHOW that he didn’t sign anything claiming the material was original work.

Furthermore, he knew that the material was in large part Fischer’s work, not his own, when he submitted it to the Hasan foundation, a fact that has raised questions at the foundation about the money it paid McInnis.

In a press release this week, the foundation said, “If indeed Mr. McInnis was working with a ‘research advisor’ it was never brought to our attention or authorized.”

The release also said the papers submitted by McInnis were represented as final products, not “rough drafts,” as the McInnis campaign has claimed.

Additionally, the press release said the foundation was never made aware “that Mr. McInnis used information or unethically used work that was not his own.” It concluded, “If the allegations are proven to be true we will demand Mr. McInnis return all monies paid to him by the foundation.”

There remain questions about why McInnis felt comfortable accepting $300,000 from the Hasan foundation in exchange for work he did not even perform himself.

McInnis has said he wants to sit down with Hasan family members and “make it right.” But he has not said he would return the entire $300,000. Unless he does so, he faces the possibility of a civil breach-of-contract lawsuit, even potential civil fraud claims.

If McInnis drops out of the race, it will leave Dan Maes, the Evergreen businessman with no previous political experience, as the only Republican candidate in the race. Few observers, The Daily Sentinel included, believe Maes can defeat Democrat John Hickenlooper in November. We maintain a slim hope that a candidate with deep ties to the Western Slope and a solid record of working on behalf of this region and the entire state — Josh Penry — could still enter the race.

But even if that doesn’t occur, McInnis’ credibility is so shredded that he can no longer be a viable candidate, much less governor. He should step aside.


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