Is McInnis Exonerated?

The basic facts of the plagiarism scandal that brought down Scott McInnis’s gubernatorial campaign have not changed since they were reported last fall. The Hasan Family Foundation paid McInnis $300,000 for a series of articles on water and related speaking engagements. McInnis paid Rolly Fischer “a few hundred dollars per article” to do much or most of this work. Fischer, claiming he thought McInnis just wanted background material, handed in text largely written by Judge Gregory J. Hobbs.

In short, McInnis turned in the work of somebody else, compiled by somebody else, under his own name, for a $300,000 paycheck. The best that can be said of McInnis’s behavior is that was a complete scumbag whom voters were quite sensible to reject. The only bright spot is that McInnis “has since repaid the foundation the full amount,” the Denver Post reports.

But did McInnis do anything illegal or anything that should cost him his license to practice law? The Colorado Supreme Court Attorney Regulation Counsel sensibly says no. In letters signed by John Gleason, the Counsel describes the following findings:

“In 2005, Mr. McInnis instructed Mr. Fisher [sic throughout] not to plagiarize any work in the articles he drafted… Mr Fisher did not and does not believe that such use was plagiarism, as he believes Justice Hobbs’ article is part of the ‘public domain.’ Mr. Fisher did not disclose to Mr. McInnis that he had imported the work of Justice Hobbs into his article. … Mr. McInnis did disclose his retention of a research assistant to Ms. Hasan in writing in 2005, contrary to the Foundation’s representation in its press release in 2010.”

So, in other words, McInnis didn’t know “his” work contained large sections of uncited material, and McInnis told the Foundation that he had a “research assistant” (who apparently did practically all the work for a tiny fraction of the pay).

If that’s a “vindication” or an “exoneration,” I’d hate to see a conviction! In the words of the Counsel, “[T]here is not clear and convincing evidence of a violation of the disciplinary rules.” Just so.

In seeing some conservatives rush to praise McInnis (and, in some cases, to castigate the Hasans), I can’t help drawing a contrast to the conservative reaction to Bill Clinton’s sex scandal. In a certain, twisted sense, Clinton “did not have sex with that woman” (because an Oval Office blow job arguably doesn’t count as “sex”) and “there’s nothing going on between us” (because “it depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”).

It is in that Clintonian sense that we may boldly declare: “Scott McInnis did not have plagiarism in that paper, ‘Musings on Water.'”