Archive for July, 2010

Day 14: McInnis’ evasiveness has led Hasan Family Foundation to consider legal action

Friday, July 30th, 2010

In an interview aired Wednesday, Colorado Public Radio asked gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis if he had kept his promise, which he made 14 days ago, to give back the $300,000 he got from the Hasan Family Foundation for his bungled two-year water fellowship.

McInnis said he had not given the money back yet, but he might do so later.

“I’ve got to make it right,” he told Colorado Public Radio. “That’s my point. What shape that takes, whether it’s the funds or whatever it is, it’s going to have to be done. I have got to make it right.”

So what is the Hasan Family Foundation’s thinking about the situation? That’s what journalists should be asking, given that it doesn’t look like McInnis is necessarily planning on returning the dough, as promised.

To find out, I spoke with Dr. Aliya Hasan, a foundation board member who eloquently defended the foundation July 16 on KHOW’s Caplis and Silverman show.

I asked Hasan whether McInnis had contacted the foundation about returning the money.

She said that McInnis called to apologize to her father, Malik Hasan, on Tuesday morning, July 13, after the plagiarism story hit the news on Monday. They didn’t discuss repayment at that point, but the foundation put out a statement by the end of the week that it wanted its money back. McInnis announced on the same day that he would honor the foundation’s request and return the $300,000.

The foundation was ready to work with McInnis to get the money back, as he had promised publicly, but McInnis never contacted the foundation to work out the details, according to Hasan.

“We didn’t hear anything from him at all,” Hasan told me. “So finally we asked our lawyer this week to send a letter formally asking for our money back.”

“We heard back from Scott’s lawyer,” she continued. “There was nothing in his letter about paying us back or about proposing a way to pay us back. The letter said that Scott wants to meet with you to make this right. You know, what he always says, I want to make this right.”

She told me the foundation doesn’t want to be mean or hurt the Republicans, but McInnis’ evasiveness has forced the foundation to consider legal action.

“The general consensus was that he is trying to wiggle out of this,” Hasan told me.  “He’s spoken to my dad already, and we’ve made it quite clear what our position is. There’s nothing more to discuss except the terms for how he is going to pay us back, which we felt our lawyer could do. And our lawyer advised us that it’s probably not a good idea to meet with him, since we are considering legal action, and we agreed. It’s one of those anything-you-say-can-be-used-against-you situations.”

“And so we’ve basically said that we are not going to meet with him,” she said. “We want our money back. Tell us how you are going to do this. And if we don’t hear back from you, then we are going to proceed to legal action. There’s no point in dragging this out further.”

Hasan said that the foundation wants to use the McInnis money for projects that benefit the community, which is the purpose of the foundation, and that’s the underlying motivation for the potential legal action.

“We’re not vindictive about what happened,” said Hasan. “We’re upset, yes, but we just want our money back.”

There’s no firm date for filing the lawsuit, Hasan told me.

Reporters doing the right thing by correcting Norton when she says she cut health dept. budget

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

In a debate with Ken Buck on Sunday’s YourShow, Adam Schrager’s thoughtful public affairs TV show on Channel 20 that solicits questions and show-topic ideas from viewers like you, Jane Norton cited Schrager’s own Truth Test reporting to support her contentions that 1) under Ken Buck, the Weld County DA budget increased by 40 percent and 2) as director of the Colorado Health Department, Norton cut the department’s general fund budget by 28 percent.

Schrager immediately corrected Norton on the 40 percent figure, reminding her that 9News’ Truth Test determined that Buck’s budget had risen by 31 percent, not 40 percent. (Truth Test is an excellent 9News series that evaluates the veracity of political advertisements aired on 9News.) 

After correcting Norton on her 40 percent figure, Schrager turned the mic over to Buck, who told Norton that 9News’Truth Test also showed that she did not cut her budget when she presided over the health department.

Schrager didn’t intervene and render a verdict on whether his Truth Test supported Norton’s claim that she cut the health department budget or Buck’s claim that she didn’t. 

So I asked Schrager via email today about it. He replied:

There’s a little more to this right off the bat, but fundamentally, I let it slip.

First of all, she approached the CDPHE point differently than I had her mention it before. Had she said she cut the budget, it would have been a no-brainer, but I heard something different and it was live TV and frankly, I didn’t process exactly what she said until I went back to the tape.

The ad says she cut budgets and for the reasons I articulated, that is incorrect. It’s a power given to lawmakers and the governor. But in the debate, she specifically phrases it differently saying the general fund, “what I had responsibility for, I cut 28%.” I got caught up on the general fund and the what I had responsibility for lines and I missed the “I cut” because that obviously brings up the same point as before. Department heads play roles in the process but they are not the end arbiters of their fate. She’s also incorrect when she says he’s grown his budget as he’s also not in control of his budget, but the Weld County Commission is.

I’ve also made clear to Buck’s folks, if they accuse her of raising her budget, I’ll disagree with that for the same reasons as above.

As I wrote before, different news outlets have come up with different ways to come to the same conclusion that Norton did not cut the budget at the Colorado health department (CDPHE).

While at least three major news outlets (9News, Denver Post, Fox31) have suggested that Norton did not cut her CDPHE budget, not a single reporter has sided with Norton on the matter–and reporters haven’t even quoted budget experts supporting Norton’s position. (The Post piece did not assert that Norton’s claim was wrong but quoted a GOP budget maven saying her claim to cut the CDPHE general fund was bogus.)

In ongoing reporting on this topic, F0x31 is taking the right approach in pointing out to viewers that Norton did not cut her CDHPE budget. As Eli Stokols reported yesterday:

On the campaign trail, Norton has continued to tell voters that she cut spending at CDPHE, even though, as FOX31 was first to report in March , the budgets she oversaw have shown that spending actually increased slightly during her tenure.

That’s the most fair and accurate way to describe what happened to the CDPHE budget under Norton.

Here’s a transcript of the exchange in question between Buck and Norton on YourShow July 22.

Norton: Both Ken and I have had budgets that have been entrusted to us by the taxpayers of Colorado. I have had two, one when I was head of the state health department. And the general fund appropriation, according to your fact check, what I had responsibility for, I cut 28 percent, in the four years I was in office. I was also lieutenant governor, and in the four years I cut what I has responsibility for, according to your fact check, by 10 percent.  Ken on the other hand talks about being for limited government but he has grown his budget at Weld County District Attorney’s office by 40 percent over the time he’s been in office. So you can say you’re a fiscal conservative, and you can say you believe in limited government, but does your record match your rhetoric.

Schrager: Our truth test actually showed it was 31 percent that the Weld County District Attorney’s office went up, but I assume you want to speak to that anyhow.

Buck:  You know, don’t let truth get in the way of a good political message. The fact check on Jane’s most recent commercial shows that she was false when she says that she cut her budget and false when she says my budget went up 40 percent.  She continues to repeat those lines as if repeating them will make them true.  It won’t make them true.

More from Bill Menezes on the state of CO journalism

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Last month, I asked Bill Menezes for his thoughts on the state of journalism in Colorado. (See his response here.) A few questions came up later that I thought were legitimate. So I tossed them to Bill, and he was kind to take time to answer them below, via email.

Bill is a former reporter and editor for local and national news media and former editorial director of Colorado Media Matters. He’s known to be open and willing to answer questions directed to him in the “comments” sections of blogs like this. So if you’ve got a question or criticism, fire away at him below…-or at me.

1.       In the first part of your response, you wrote that there was “a lot to be optimistic about” in the Colorado journalism landscape, including the Colorado Springs Gazette getting to the Pulitzer Prize finals. Why didn’t you mention The Denver Post’s actually getting the Pulitzer for photography this year? As you know, the project included great writing as well on an unbelievably important topic.

That’s as may be, and the Post photo staff certainly deserves the honor, but we were talking about news reporting and political news reporting specifically. A Pulitzer for feature photography — the paper’s first prize in a decade — doesn’t address how what arguably is the state’s leading newspaper is dealing with the epic changes sweeping the Colorado news media in areas I believe are the most important to its readers: News, in-depth news reporting and real insight from its huge political/state government reporting team.

The Gazette has suffered wave after wave after wave of withering newsroom cuts over the past decade; for it to compete at a Pulitzer level is a miracle. The Post has had all the advantages — size, demise of its primary competitor, infusion of Rocky newspeople — and still hasn’t mustered a news Pulitzer in a decade. My perspective is that in the current upheaval in Colorado media, optimism gets sparked more by the news talent displayed by the Gazette’s nomination, that’s all.

2.       While ignoring the Post’s Pulitzer, you came down hard on The Post’s blog, the Spot, and The Post generally. You wrote that “neither the bloggers nor the newspaper break much significant political or public policy news and rarely engage with the blog’s audience. Instead we get Lynn Bartels …blogging’ about Dick Wadhams’ wedding, thus giving the Post the distinction of having no full-time science writer but three full-time gossip columnists.” I like harsh criticism, but it’s not fair to offer only one example of a single fluff story, which you’d expect to be in the mix, without acknowledging that around the time of the post on Wadhams’ wedding, the Spot also had blog posts about lots of substantive issues, like immigration, Ryan Frazier, Jane Norton, uncovered Ritter bill signings, developments in minor political races, and more. It seems to me like the Spot is trying feed political insiders relevant and factual information, without losing credibility by posting gossip and/or regurgitated information that you find on most blogs. The downside of this approach is that the blog is less free-wheeling. So, can you be more specific about why you think the Spot is under-achieving?

After our initial exchanges on this, I had a very lengthy, very nice e-mail exchange with Chuck Plunkett, who essentially asked the same question. My perspective — in a nutshell, rather than getting into all of the details Chuck and I discussed — was that given the resource of about a dozen journalists focused on politics, state government and public policy, the Spot’s content appears to lean very heavily on day-to-day news nuggets and trivia, rather than really leveraging that brainpower to provide readers with meaningful information and insight they’re not going to get from other blogs. (Not from other newspapers, but from other blogs. We’re talking about The Spot, remember?) That’s a news feed, not a blog. What The Spot does run is a lot of stuff (including the examples you cited above) that charitably can be characterized as news release fodder, from campaigns, from polling organizations, from the governor’s office, etc. Do you really need a “blog” to report a prepared statement from Jane Norton or Ryan Frazier? It’s a news brief, putting it on something you call a blog doesn’t change that. Also, based on my anecdotal stopwatch it took quite some time after McInnis tweeted that he was staying in the race for the Post to have something of its own online, either on its blog or elsewhere. Mind-boggling, in several respects.

Is that really the best use of a news blog? My argument to Chuck was that it is not. However, he provided some very clear insights into the decision-making governing Spot content and why it functions more as a news feed than a real blog (that’s another criticism — virtually no real interaction between Spot “bloggers” and the audience with which it allegedly is having a “conversation,” which is what a real blog does) and we tend to agree on more than we disagree regarding the blog and its potential. Chuck sees the same opportunity that I’ve pointed out, but he’s the one who must live in the real world as far as executing it, with all the headwinds that might entail… Remember, my criticism is not that The Spot never would amount to anything, just that it had not lived up to what I considered its short-term potential so far. Chuck clearly agrees they’ve got a way to go, although understandably he mounts a spirited and very reasonable defense of what the site is right now.

3.       You wrote that The Post has no science writer. But it has a health reporter and, I think, an environmental writer. Do you really think a newspaper like The Post should have a science writer these days, especially if it has a health reporter?

Ah…yeah, I do. Ask a climate scientist or a wildlife biologist if a health writer can cover his or her field the way a science writer might. The two beats are pretty different unless you’re talking about areas related to health science. Meanwhile, the Post operates without a science writer (which both major Denver daily newspapers used to have) in a state with one of the world’s foremost climate SCIENCE organizations in Boulder, as well as a huge amount of alternative fuels SCIENCE research taking place in Boulder and Fort Collins, and the state of Colorado itself engaging in wildlife biology SCIENCE as it tracks the impact of climate change…you get the idea.

4.       Your statement that The Post “doesn’t break much significant political or public policy news” is way broad. Do you really think this is true?

Well, last week’s reporting notwithstanding…I actually do. If anything the McInnis stuff seemed to me to highlight how few and far between such reporting triumphs appear in the Post. They broke the story that McInnis had a paid fellowship with the Hasans but YOU and others took the ball and ran with it until they finally caught up with the plagiarism hit, weeks later. Odd no one else thought of that angle, and it’s still unclear whether the Post had the idea or if someone told them to look into it (you’ve probably seen such speculation in some of the blogs that the Hasans themselves could have blown the whistle). When’s the last time the Post came up with such an impactful political or public policy news story? The Schaffer-Marianas stuff two YEARS ago?

Further, the Post’s political and public affairs reporting still is bogged down on the same, tired “he said, she said” mode that produces a preponderance of lies and rebuttals. For example, nowhere in the entire Post report on the legislative debate over repealing the sales tax exemption on candy and soda …• as I recall …• was there ANY empirical analysis or evidence about the likely impact of such a move on the businesses that were lobbying against it. What we instead got was he said (Engstrom’s going to have to cut jobs if this passes) she said (cuts are necessary to help balance the budget) BS. The freaking tax increase amounted to three cents on a $1 candy bar or soda! How hard would it have been to track down research showing the impact on sales in other states/municipalities where a similar sales tax rise occurred? Never saw it in the Post. Oh, and given the amount of ink it gave to the tax exemption repeal debate, has the Post followed up with the opposing businesses to get hard evidence of whether what they warned about has come to pass?

I firmly believe most of the people who cover this beat for the Post are completely capable of such reporting. But something is missing and as a result Post readers are getting a daily politics/public policy report with less depth and bravado than the newspaper provides on the Broncos and the Rockies.

Day 6 and it looks like McInnis hasn’t even contacted the Hasans

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

It’s been six days now since Scott McInnis promised to repay $300,000 in water-fellowship funds paid to him by Hasan Family Foundation, but it appears that McInnis has not returned any money yet and that he hasn’t even contacted the foundation about returning the cash, according to Muhammad Ali Hasan, the eclectic film maker, former political candidate, and Hasan family member.

Emphasizing that he “cannot speak for the Foundation” because he’s not on the Board, Hasan told me via email that in “discussions with Board members,” he’s gathered this information:

“1. To my knowledge, McInnis has not returned the money as of yet – I have also heard that McInnis has not contacted the Foundation since his repayment announcement – I cannot confirm for sure, but that is what I’m hearing

2. I’m pretty sure the Foundation will inform the public about any returned monies.”

Journalists should ask McInnis’ ASAP about specific plans for repayment, including specific dates and amounts. With the story all over the news, this is basic follow-up that needs to be done.

The question has become more complicated since we now know that $112,500 of McInnis’ $300,000 from the Hasan foundation was paid to a corporation called “Invest 2, LLC,” not to McInnis personally.

This corporation was dissolved on July 27, 2006, raising the question of how McInnis plans to refund money paid to a corporation that no longer exists.

Furthermore, we don’t know if Scott McInnis was even an owner of this corporation–or how many other owners it might have had. If other owners were involved, as is likely due to the structures of McInnis other LLCs, then the question arises of whether McInnis will ask the co-owners of Invest 2 LLC to return the Hasan money they presumably received as partial owners of Invest 2, LLC.

UPDATE: Asked today by the Colorado Independent why he asked the Hasan Foundation to pay him through Invest 2 LLC, McInnis said, “There is no reason.”

The answers to these questions won’t be easy to find, but they obviously deserve further investigation, and certainly questions for Lori McInnis (as well as Scott) are in order, as she is the only person formally associated with Invest 2, LLC.

Invest 2, LLC, was not listed among the corporations mentioned in The Denver Post back in April, when the McInnis campaign allowed a Post reporter to review but not copy portions of McInnis’ tax returns starting in 2005. Companies with similar names were listed in the Post article as assets, but Invest 2, LLC, was not among them. Here’s a portion of the Post article:

Over the years, McInnis listed Invest Partnership, Invest 1 and S & L McInnis LLP as assets. All were various investments with some or all of his five siblings and wife, his campaign said. The partnerships invested in real estate, oil and gas, and water.

So, given that we don’t have access to McInnis’ income-tax returns, we also don’t know whether he paid income tax on the $112,500 of the Hasan money that was apparently paid to Invest 2 LLC.

Reporters should turn to Scott and Lori McInnis for clarity about this complex topic.

Did McInnis avoid taxes on $112,500 of Hasan water money?

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Here’s a nagging detail about Scott McInnis’ Hasan Fellowship that’s slipped through the cracks in the media.

Why did McInnis run $112,500 of his $300,000 payment from the Hasan Family Foundation through a company called, “Scott McInnis Invest 2 LLC?”

McInnis was paid $150,000 in 2005, and IRS records from the foundation show the money was paid to “Scott McInnis.”

McInnis was paid $37,500 in 2007, and foundation records show his check was again paid to “Scott McInnis.” (This was for work in 2006.)

But sandwiched between those two outlays was a payment in 2006 for $112,500 to “Scott McInnis Invest 2 LLC.”

There could easily be nothing illegal about McInnis claiming $112,500 of the Hasan money through a corporation that he’s associated with. Even if  the purpose of “Scott McInnis Invest 2 LLC” had nothing to do with freelance writing, speaking, or related activities, the company could take the Hasan money as income, I’m told by accountants, though in other states corporate income apparently has to be related to the purpose of the corporation.  (I can’t figure out what ”Scott McInnis Invest 2 LLC” did or who owned it, though there’s some hints on Google that “Invest 2 LLC” might be associated with Lori McInnis.)

But if the corporation had multiple owners, and McInnis has said that his business activities involved family members and others, there could be tax avoidance issues. In other words, the income from McInnis’ writing activities may have been spread to his corporate c0-owners, like perhaps his children, who had lower tax brackets than McInnis, and thus less tax was paid. This might have sweetened the ”sweet” deal a bit.

In a June 16 posting on the Nonprofit Quarterly blog, Rick Cohen, who’s a former director of the Naional Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, wrote: “It’s pretty rare, we think, that foundation or academic fellows are paid as LLC’s rather than individuals.” Cohen pointed out that the Hasan Foundation’s only other fellow, “a Professor Albar Ahmad, was paid directly rather than as a corporation, albeit for only $30,000.”

Again, there’s obviously no proof McInnis did anything illegal here, but we don’t know enough yet to be sure.

So, does anyone have a clue what “Invest 2 LLC” is? Or “Scott McInnis Invest 2 LLC?” If so, tell a reporter, because none has dug into this.

When will the Hasans get their 300K back?

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Journalists may not like to think of themselves as grade-school teachers for public officials and candidates, but they often serve this function.  Are candidates following the rules? Who’s at fault when candidates fight? Are they doing what they said they’d do?

In the case of McInnis, journalists have fulfilled this role in catching McInnis’ plagiarism. A good teacher, particularly for older students, does basic plagiarism checks regularly.

Grade school teachers also need to make sure their students’ punishments are received and completed.

And that’s where things stand with McInnis. He’s agreed to one punishment (more might come), which is to give the Hasan Family Foundation its $300,000 back.

Now reporters need to make sure McInnis follows through.

There are two questions that need to be answered by McInnis and, if he won’t answer them, the Hasan Foundation.

When will you return the money?

Will you make a public announcement when the money is returned?

I emailed these questions to McInnis spokesman Sean Duffy this morning, and he quickly replied:

 ”That’s a matter between Scott and the Hasan family, as Scott said in his statement last week,” Duffy emailed me.

As a grade-school teacher will tell you, it’s not good enough to leave punishments to old friends to work out, even if they are apparently fighting at the moment, particularly if the track record on basic honesty of one of the combatants is questionable.

 Journalists have uncovered information (plagiarism and other alleged lies) that partisans on both sides of the aisle agree raise questions about the integrity of McInnis. In evaluating McInnis going forward, the public needs to know the specifics about how and when he’s making amends for his past wrongs.

It’s not enough for McInnis to say he’ll sit down and make it right with the Hasans in private. This needs to be addressed in the light of TV cameras.

Journalists should track this closely for us by asking McInnis directly about it, and staying on the question.

Plagiarism not governed by professional boundaries, says former Rocky Editor Temple

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Should we hold public officials to the same standards as writers when it comes to plagiarism?

I emailed this question to former Rocky Mountain News Editor John Temple,  who’s now leading an online journalism experiment in Hawaii.

As a veteran editor, he’s obviously thought a lot about plagiarism. In what was, I believe, the last major instance of plagiarism in Denver, the Rocky’s Deputy Editorial Page Editor Thom Beal resigned in 2005 after it was revealed by 5280 Magazine that he lifted wording from a Washington Post article. Beal also copied a phrase from the Daily Howler. Temple wrote an item in the Rocky personally apologizing for “this breach of our trust with you, our readers.”

Temple emailed me:

“I don’t think plagiarism is governed by professional boundaries. We saw what happened when Joe Biden plagiarized Neil Kinnock. Nobody should take somebody else’s words and use them without crediting the original source.”

I don’t know who would disagree with this. It’s clear that plagiarism is wrong, regardless of who commits it.

But how big a deal should be made of it? Did yesterday’s news, that McInnis plagiarized a couple passages for an op-ed and floor speech, merit The Post’s front page? I’d say yes, but only because of the context…-that he had been caught in a bigger plagiarism scandal the day before, involving hundreds of thousands of dollars of foundation money.  The op-ed lapse would have been news either way, even if accepting opinion pieces from interest groups is common practice in Washington. But I don’t think it would have merited front-page treatment had McInnis’ water plagiarism not been on the front-page the day before.

Today’s news that Former Heritage Foundation scholar Daryl Plunk allegedly gave McInnis permission to use passages of his work does not change the news calculus. As Post Editor Greg More told The Post:

“It is an old ploy to blame the media for bad news. Allegedly having permission to copy someone else’s words or thoughts doesn’t necessarily mean that’s OK, but that is for others to decide.”

I think Moore got it right. And he’s also right that others will decide the fate politicians, while editors dictate what happens to reporters who plagiarize. 

“In my industry, an abuse like this one means you clean out your desk and go begging,” Chuck Plunkett wrote in the Spot blog Tuesday.  

So the immediate fate of a writer who plagiarizes is clear, while the immediate remifications for a politician are obviously not. Witness McInnis.

Caplis calls on McInnis to withdraw

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

KHOW’s Dan Caplis isn’t known for surprising us when it comes to conservative issues. He usually toes the line.

But Caplis, who toyed with a Senate run this year, surprised me yesterday, I must say, when he leapt in front of his brethren and said on the radio that gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis should withdraw from the race. He said:

I believe [McInnis] is a man of integrity….

In my view, you have some major mistakes there that raise question marks for voters who don’t know these people the way we do.

And when you look at Scott McInnis, there’s a case when you can bet millions of dollars will go into reminding Coloradans or informing any who haven’t heard yet that Scott got $300,000 to write a handful of water articles that he didn’t write himself and that were plagiarized by somebody to boot-.

If you are truly committed to having a conservative elected, you look at that scenario and say, that’s suicide. Why in the world would we do that?

Media focus on plagiarism overshadows big underlying issue of fraud

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

It’s natural that journalists would be focusing on plagiarism in the strange story of Scott McInnis, the Hasan Family Foundation, and the water articles. Writers think about plagiarism all the time. And McInnis’ assignment as a Hasan Fellow was mostly to write a “series of in-depth articles on water.”

But what’s more germane, going forward, is probably fraud, not plagiarism. And this is a story line that journalists should track closely.

That’s because McInnis had apparently entered into a contract with the Hasan Family Foundation to write the water articles. McInnis is correct when he says that the articles were never published, but, still, McInnis probably had a contractual agreement with the foundation to produce original articles, not to copy Judge Gregory Hobbs’ work.

His plagiarized articles appear to constitute a breach of his contract, and breach-of-contract is a common type of fraud.  Even if the work was being done for a foundation, it was a business transaction, and in the business world, unlike the day-to-day world journalists occupy, breach of contract, not plagiarism, rules the day.

And the Hasans look like they are in just the right mood to file the civil fraud lawsuit, given that they’re pissed (“shocked, angry, and disappointed,” according to an Hasan news release), and they’re conducting an internal investigation that might result in their asking for their money back from McInnis.

One might think McInnis would be jumping head over heels to calm the Hasans, given the media frenzy that would emerge from a lawsuit, but not really.

On the Caplis and Silverman show yesterday, McInnis stopped short of promising to return the money to the Hasans, if necessary, though he did say he’d try to work things out with them.

Silverman: Are you going to give the Hasan family their money back?

McInnis: As I say, I’m going to sit down and talk with them and do what we need to do to make it right.

To win a fraud case against McInnis, according to lawyers I spoke with, the foundation would have to prove four general elements, which hinge on  whether McInnis knew his articles were plagiarized. 

Asked by Craig Silverman yesterday whether he had signed a form stating that his work was “original,” McInnis said no.  But as has been widely reported, a 2005 memo submitted to “Seeme Hasan, Chairwoman; Hasan Foundation” under the name of “Scott McInnis, Senior Fellow” states, “All the Articles are original and not reprinted from any other source.”

McInnis is claiming that his researcher made the writing mistakes that resulted in the plagiarism. This would make McInnis’ deceit unintentional.  But his researcher, Rolly Fischer, is blaming McInnis for the plagiarism, so there looks to be lots of material for a court fight, with McInnis, Fischer and the Hasans as the star witnesses.

“A civil fraud claim by the Hasan Foundation is one of many things that Scott McInnis needs to be worried about today,” Craig Silverman wrote me via email. “$300,000 is a lot of money to make, and a lot of money to return.  If a lawsuit happens, then there are the costs and attorney fees to be considered. If this is fully played out,there would be brutal lengthy depositions and other forms of discovery before you ever get close to a trial.”

Drew Dougherty, media contact for the Hasans, told me today that the foundation will not make any decisions about next steps until after its internal investigation is completed.

Journalists should discuss the fraud option with lawyers and the Hasans themselves, as this story plays out.

Dave Kopel’s take on media and McInnis’ plagiarism

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

I asked former Rocky media critic Dave Kopel what he thought of the McInnis situation, in light of the plagiarism and media frenzy around Ward Churchill:

If McInnis were currently employed by a university, the standard course of action would be for an investigation. Sometimes, as in the Churchill case, scrutiny of a person’s published work reveals not only numerous instances of plagiarism spanning many years, but also many other instances of outright fraud. Compounding the problem in Churchill’s case was his total lack of repentance, and his absurd claims of innocence despite plain and overwhelming evidence.

In the case of the hypothetical Professor McInnis, a responsible administrator would want to know more before pronouncing final judgment. The Denver Post undoubtedly is working to gather additional information.

For a political candidate, any misconduct or bad judgment in a previous job is something that some voters choose to take into account when voting. Apparently the majority of voters in the U.S. in 2008 did not care much that Joe Biden in 1987 had plagiarized his “autobiography” from Neil Kinnock, or that Biden had thereafter continued to prevaricate about his autobiography.

While I wrote about media coverage of Churchill, I don’t recall that I ever called on him to resign. I have no opinion on whether McInnis should or should not withdraw.