15th 2010
Here’s why plagiarism is a bad thing, kids

Posted under: American history, local news, unhappy endings, wankers

Scott McInnis, plagiarist

Perhaps I spoke too soon about Colorado not having any political races this year worth watching.  Two days ago, we awoke to the news that a Republican candidate for Governor, Scott McInnis, whom I described here as the Snidlely Whiplash of Colorado politics, plagiarized articles he was to write as a requirement of a $300,000 fellowship by a private foundation here in Colorado.  (Where can I get that kind of fellowship?)  Then yesterday, the Denver Post reported that McInnis had plagiarized an op-ed that was originally published in the Washington Post back in the 1990s when he was a Congressman, and it called for him to drop out of the Republican primary race.  (Our primary is August 10, but most counties are holding a mail-in ballot election only, and the ballots are being sent out today, so this story breaks at an especially bad time for McInnis.) 

Last night, the octogenarian engineer whom McInnis tried to blame for the original plagiarism said not only that McInnis is lying, but that his campaign tried to force him to sign a false statement taking blame for it!  Today the Post reports that the authors of the plagiarized op-ed, lackeys of the Heritage Foundation, say that they had given McInnis permission to use their words, but most people seem to see it as confirmation of a pattern of Snidely Whiplashian corner-cutting.

Of course, the journalists on this story are outraged about the plagiarism.  I’m sure you proffies and grad students who read Historiann.com are too.  But, the fraud in this case bears attention too.  Who the h-e-double-hockey-sticks gets paid $300,000 to write a few articles on water law?  And then what kind of guy has the nerve to cheat on such a patently cushy deal?  Not the kind of guy most Coloradoans want to call their Governor, that’s for sure.  Coloradopols has been holding a death watch for the McInnis campaign since Tuesday afternoon.  You can follow events as they unfold over there, and at the Denver Post website. 

One last observation:  this scandal seems to confirm what even many GOPers thought about McInnis.  His statewide reputation is that of a guy who’s only in it for himself, and he’s not a well liked person.  I think the media and political establishment pile-on reflects this antipathy towards McInnis.  It’s notable that absolutely no Republicans have come out to defend McInnis publicly.  Their attitude seems to be, he made his bed, now let him lie in it.  (Of course, nothing would please the majority of journalists and professors in this state more than seeing McInnis go down for plagiarism.  What an object lesson for our students!)


22 Responses to “Here’s why plagiarism is a bad thing, kids”

  1. Jonathan Rees on 15 Jul 2010 at 8:27 am #


    The $300,000 came from the Hassan Foundation, the charitable arm of the same extremely conservative people who fund our business school here at CSU-Pueblo. While I’d like to treat this as a Frankenstein vs Wolfman situation, I can’t because the Hassans were good enough to call McInnis out and demand their $300,000 back.

    By the way, McInnis used to be my Congressman. When he spoke at our commencement one year, he insulted every professor in the audience by claiming we weren’t good role models because we don’t make enough money.

    Trust me, the benefits of this scandal to higher education in Colorado go way beyond the example this sets for students not to plagiarize.

  2. Historiann on 15 Jul 2010 at 9:50 am #

    Agreed on the benefits to higher ed in ditching McInnis. (But, let’s face it: Hick is going to have to continue not-funding us, even if he won’t be interested in attacking us politically. Higher ed in this state is totally screwed unless and until we hold a Constitutional Convention.)

    We’ll see what shakes out about the Hassan Foundation. Why the hell was that outfit hiring him to write articles on water law in the first place? (My guess is that they couldn’t give him a campaign contribution because he wasn’t running for anything. . . yet.) If they’ve got something to hide, then demanding McInnis pay them back is the first move.

  3. Z on 15 Jul 2010 at 11:02 am #

    “Why the hell was that outfit hiring him to write articles on water law in the first place?” To plant ideas, news, and opinions, as though they come from a variety of people.
    ?que no? (oder nicht?)

  4. Historiann on 15 Jul 2010 at 12:29 pm #


    The Republican Governor’s Association is pulling its funding out of the Colorado race. That’s really, really bad news for the GOP. (But as I’ve said before, Hick might still lose by winning easily. Who the heck would WANT to be a governor now?)

    Sez Coloradopols:

    The Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) has pulled out of Colorado. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the Chair of the RGA, is still attending an RGA meeting in Aspen this weekend, but fundraisers with Barbour have been cancelled. Fundraising events with Barbour scheduled yesterday and today in both Denver and Aspen were called off, and the decision has been made that the Colorado governor’s race is essentially a lost cause.This is a major development, because there were rumors of as much as $9 million being spent by the RGA in Colorado — money that would have helped every Republican down the ticket.

    Meanwhile, we hear that McInnis donors have already started asking for their contributions to be returned, and fundraising events for the former GOP frontrunner have also been called off.

  5. ej on 15 Jul 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    I love the explanation that it wasn’t plagiarism, it was a mistake, since he didn’t know that the guy he paid to write the article for him plagiarized it. Since when it paying someone else to write an essay that has your name on it not plagiarism? I really hope our students aren’t following this story. They’re already confused enough about what constitutes plagiarism.

  6. Historiann on 15 Jul 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    Well, this should at least clarify the consequences in their minds.

    That particular version of McInnis’s excuse reminds me of a story my undergrad mentor told me about when she was a T.A. at Harvard in the early 1980s. (I’ve heard other versions of this from other schools, so it may be an Urban Legend, but whatever.) Here goes:

    She caught a plagiarist, and (pre-internet) spent several hours re-reading the book and articles that were plagiarized, highlighting the relevant passages and making photocopies for the professor, whom I believe she said was Simon Schama. Schama and she had a meeting with the plagiarist, who immediately broke down and cried that it wasn’t his fault, it was his sister’s fault, because over Thanksgiving break he had asked her to write the term paper for him.

    (Then again, it might not be an Urban Legend, but rather something that happens all of the time.)

  7. cgeye on 15 Jul 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    Damn. A lost cause? That’s gonna be an opportunity for the Tea Party to bring in a write-in completely wingnut candidate — since an Independent could cause chaos if he/she gets enough signatures, and all that PAC attack ad cash is just sitting there, with no positive candidate to spend it on.

    Do you wanna bet Hickenlooper veers to the right anyway, ’cause he wants to govern *all* of Colorado? That no Dem will take this opportunity to radically propose solutions that would dig ordinary people out of the whole, through public works and taxing the rich?

    Everyone with a checkbook and a dream is now off-leash. I’d invest in canned goods, water and bozo filters, ’cause it’s gonna get massively ugly. The rightwing in CO does *not* like giving a Democratic governor the shoe-in, unless they destroy the government first.


  8. cgeye on 15 Jul 2010 at 2:52 pm #

    (um, *hole*. I do know how to spell….)

  9. Historiann on 15 Jul 2010 at 3:05 pm #

    We’ll see what Hickenlooper does. I’m not taking your bet, because I think you’re probably right. But, he was successful in talking Denverites into voting for some taxes to pay for better city services, right?

    But, Denver ain’t the state, and maybe more to the point, Denver ain’t crippled with a crazzy state constitution.

    As a soon to be ex-Dem, I have to say that it’s kind of jaw-dropping to watch the GOP blow statewide election after election after election. I mean, Pete Coors (2004), then Bob Beauprez (2006), then Bob Schaffer (2008)? But McInnis beats them all.

  10. ej on 15 Jul 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    Not an urban legend at all, Historiann. I had a student who submitted a paper that included entire paragraphs lifted from a Western Civ. text (though not the one assigned for our class). When I called her on it, she vehemently denied plagiarizing, because she had copied the paper from her roommate, and had no idea her roommate had copied from a text! The sad part was, she honestly believed in her own innocence.

  11. Comrade PhysioProf on 15 Jul 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    Sanctimonious right-wing fuck-ups like this shitbag, and especially those that are also supermegajeezus freak assholes (I don’t know if this guy is or not), have no problem LYING LYING LYING. They truly believe that is morally upright to lie if it is in service of their sick twisted delusional hateful ideologies.

  12. Historiann on 15 Jul 2010 at 7:37 pm #

    McInnis has never been a huge moralist–but he is a Colorado Republican, which means signing on for the whole pro-life/anti-tax jihadi schtick. Like I said, the public reaction (even among Republicans) has been very negative. People never liked this guy, and he never seemed to care about that. This just gives them more justification.

    You have to feel a little sorry for Josh Penry, who was shoved out of the R primary to clear the path for this guy. Now the Rs are stuck with a long-shot tea party candidate (Don Maes) that no one thought was viable enough to shove out of the primary!

  13. Erica on 15 Jul 2010 at 7:37 pm #

    Goodness, your (pre-)gubernatorial fiascoes are almost as interesting as South Carolina’s… ;)

  14. Historiann on 15 Jul 2010 at 7:40 pm #

    What was with all that, Erica? When Fratguy and I saw the photos of the dudes Haley supposedly stepped out with, we knew it was fiction from the start. She could do better than a random ugly blogger and a random overly tanned lobbyist. A lot better.

  15. Erica on 15 Jul 2010 at 7:46 pm #

    I have absolutely no idea! There was also some state senator who went on a radio show calling her a towelhead — stuff got seriously nasty. (I don’t expect she’ll get my vote, but I AM glad that she beat Andre Bauer.)

    But at least there’s no evidence she plagiarized anything, right?

  16. Historiann on 15 Jul 2010 at 7:51 pm #


    From the Denver Post:

    Despite calls for him to step aside, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis said this morning said he isn’t going anywhere, then cancelled a scheduled appearance at a rally in Erie.

    “I am in it to win it,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “We will continue to fight for Colorado’s businesses and families and will not leave this race. Stay strong!”

    But top Republicans who have been meeting and discussing the issue said McInnis is done — whether he knows it or not. Party insiders say the damage to McInnis is so severe that he can’t recover, and they are actively courting University of Colorado president Bruce Benson, Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, and interestingly, U.S. Senate candidates Ken Buck and Jane Norton who are embroiled in their own primary.

    . . . . .

    “We’re the party that said Ward Churchill had to lose his job for plagiarism,” [Sen. Greg] Brophy said. “We just can’t stand for this.”

    I can’t help it. I’m not really a Dem any more, but


  17. Historiann on 15 Jul 2010 at 7:55 pm #

    Next time, the South Carolina GOP has to come up with some plausibly handsome putative lovers. I know they’re up against a wall, being Republicans and all.

    Are there any good-looking Republicans other than Todd Palin? (And he’s not even a candidate, just a candidate’s spouse.) Anyone? Anyone? Hot Republican men?

    (Republican men all look like Phil Gramm or Jesse Helms to me.)

  18. Erica on 15 Jul 2010 at 7:58 pm #

    Massachusetts’ Scott Brown!

  19. Comrade PhysioProf on 16 Jul 2010 at 3:21 am #

    You really consider Todd Palin to be “good-looking”? He looks to me like one of those dweeb douchebags at the engineering frat down the block where we used to show up when all our beer and weed was gone and pretend to be their friends.

  20. Indyanna on 16 Jul 2010 at 3:55 am #

    What did the guy think he was going to get done in Erie, anyway? We don’t mind a little re-hashing, sampling, mix-taping, whatever youse want to call it of political rhetoric, but we’re pretty much overstocked with praxtitioners back this way, and don’t need to import praxtitioners of the dreaded “West Coast” style of that genre! Plus, we don’t have water law in these parts, except as it relates to the production of water ice.

  21. Historiann on 16 Jul 2010 at 5:51 am #

    I don’t know, Indyanna–but it looks like his campaign is clearly circling the drain.

    Erica: yes, Scott Brown is handsome. Excellent suggestion. Most of the rest of R senators look like largemouth bass.

  22. It’s Bennet v. Buck in Nov., plus no more McPlagiarist to kick around : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 11 Aug 2010 at 8:36 am #

    [...] Don Maes narrowly edged out Scott McPlagiarist in the Republican gubernatorial primary.  (Explanation of the plagiarism story here.)  The buzz here among the Republicans is how to push both Maes and Tommy “the Tank” [...]

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