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Expert: 'Non-issue' could end McInnis' campaign

9:23 PM, Jul 13, 2010   |    comments
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The former Republican congressman made the comments to 9NEWS in his first public remarks since The Denver Post reported large portions of a series of essays he wrote on water were nearly identical to previously published material from now-Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs.

"This is a non-issue if it's not a political year. Voters don't really care about this issue. They care about jobs, getting back to work." McInnis told 9NEWS.

McInnis says research provided to him was bad and he believes there are numerous other examples, similar to the one reported in The Denver Post, within the papers.

"We're going to fix it and move on. These things happen," McInnis said. "Every day you run for office, you're going to have problems pop up. You address it and get back to your main focus."

The passages in question come from a series of water articles McInnis was paid $300,000 to write for the Colorado-based Hasan Family Foundation in 2005-2006.

9NEWS Political Analyst Floyd Ciruli says the story does not look good for McInnis.

"It was a strange story to start with several months ago because $300,000 for a few water stories just did not have a good value proposition. You couldn't understand what was being paid for," Ciruli said. "So, it didn't look good. But now, the fact that he apparently didn't write the material, it looks dishonest."

A statement released by the foundation's board president last night said if an independent investigation showed evidence of plagiarism from a 1984 piece that Hobbs wrote for the Colorado Water Congress, it would demand he repay the money he took from them.

"My guess is the average voter doesn't really care about what I make or stuff like this," McInnis said. "I'm sure they don't think I haven't made mistakes and I'm sure they care more about their jobs."

"Plagiarism is absolutely an issue. Ask Ward Churchill," Dan Maes, McInnis' challenger in the Republican primary, said. "People absolutely care. What they want more than anything these days is honesty, integrity, accountability and character. I see that missing in his response."

Democrats are demanding McInnis end his campaign.

"We demand a lot from our governor," Rep. Terrance Carroll, Democratic Speaker of the House, said. "The people of Colorado should really question whether Scott McInnis has the trust and integrity that they demand from their governor to lead this great state."

McInnis said he paid Rolly Fischer, a Glenwood Springs engineer, to help him with the articles and Fischer was responsible for the content that was plagiarized.

"I'm not perfect. There was a mistake. As governor, you've got to deal with these things," McInnis said. "In management, you have problems that come up, hopefully not every day. We got faulty research. We didn't know it was faulty until yesterday. That's why I immediately stood up and said, 'Hey, it's faulty, we've got to make it work.'"

Calls to Fischer were not returned, but in an e-mail McInnis' campaign sent to supporters last night, Fischer allegedly accepted responsibility for the errors.

Fischer's only public comment so far was to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

"Scott's responsible for it," he said.

Other than that, Fischer only told the paper, "I have nothing to say."

Ciruli says the front-page story in The Denver Post could impact the race for the Colorado governor's mansion.

"This is very, very big, at least for Scott McInnis. It changes the dynamics of his campaign," Ciruli said. "He is now on the defensive."

Ciruli says the way McInnis handles the situation, especially over the next 24 hours, could have a major impact on his campaign.

"It could end his campaign, frankly, I think it's that serious," Ciruli said.

McInnis says he will personally apologize to Hobbs but has yet to reach the justice. McInnis says he has also called representatives with the Hasan Foundation to apologize, and hopes to find a way to make things right.

"I'll sit down with them. It's a good foundation, good people. Have known 'em for a long time. I'll go in, sit down with them and we'll discuss what we need to do," McInnis said.

In next month's primary, McInnis faces Maes with the winner taking on Democrat John Hickenlooper in November.

Colorado Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak said in a statement, "This is the worst case of political plagiarism in Colorado history. Scott McInnis was paid more than a quarter million dollars to produce a story that took ideas and words from another source practically verbatim. He signed the document asserting that the work was 'original' - that's called perjury for a lawyer. Coloradans must now seriously question Scott McInnis' ethics and integrity. 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?"

McInnis dismissed the story as nothing more than a political tactic.

"This is a political race. This is a non-issue if it weren't a political race. It's a political race and they're going to try to divert from their weaknesses and their weakness is they've done a lousy job," McInnis said. "They've done a lousy job."

(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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