It's not been a good week for Scott McInnis.
A former Republican congressman from Colorado, McInnis is his party's frontrunner in this year's open race for governor. But on Monday of this week, the Denver Post reported that a series of essays on water rights McInnis submitted as ostensibly his own — for which he was paid $300,000 — turns out to have been plagiarized (or at least extremely similar to writings) from now-state Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs.
McInnis acknowledged making a "serious mistake" but said it was unintentional, and placed the blame on a research assistant for failing to cite the original author. But that assistant, Rolly Fischer, said that McInnis was lying and blaming him for his own mistake.
Then, on Wednesday,the Post reported that a 1994 column then-Congressman McInnis penned for the Rocky Mountain News included passages very similar to an op-ed published in the Washington Post.
It's hard to say for certain that this is a campaign-ender, but that's the way it's looking. The Post yesterday editorially said McInnis "should throw in the towel":
Revelations of extensive plagiarism in work that gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis claimed as his own call into question his fitness for public office.
The lifted work, examined in The Denver Post, constitutes inexcusable intellectual thievery. It is so damaging that we believe McInnis ought to drop out of the race. ...
If Scott McInnis cannot be trusted to turn in what amounts to an overpaid term paper — without plagiarizing someone else's work — there is no way he can be relied upon to guide Colorado through these complicated times.
Meanwhile, the Post's Karen Crummy reports, state Republicans are preparing for the "possibility" of McInnis dropping out of the race, even though his spokesman insists that he's staying in:
Even so, GOP leaders and advisers swapped phone calls and hastily held small meetings Wednesday to discuss whether McInnis could be replaced by another candidate, according to several participants. Conservative radio talk-show host Dan Caplis called on McInnis to drop out for the "greater good."
Topping the list appears to be Bruce Benson, a multi-millionaire and the president of the University of Colorado who was the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 1994, when he lost decisively to Gov. Roy Romer (D). Others mentioned include former Rep. Tom Tancredo and state Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry.
Dan Maes, who has been running against McInnis for the nomination in the Aug. 10 primary, "said no one has tried to pressure him to exit the race and that he was in for the long haul."
State law is unclear whether or not the party could replace McInnis on the ballot should he withdraw.
Metropolitan State College political science professor Norman Provizer is quoted in the Post story as saying that "while McInnis may be wounded, it is not necessarily fatal":
I'm not sure he's doomed. He needs to take responsibility for it, then move on and not continue to extend the story. If I was him, I would be looking at making sure I didn't make these problems into a pattern.
All of this is certainly good news for Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, the unopposed Democratic candidate.
It's hard to say whether plagiarism spells the death knell for a campaign. It certainly wounded Joe Biden in 1987 while he was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, when he was forced to acknowledge plagiarizing the speech of British politician Neil Kinnock. At the same time, notes the Associated Press, there were allegations that Barack Obama, during his own 2008 White House bid, borrowed parts of a speech from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. But that charge "had little impact."