Sequence of events:
1. Former congressman Scott McInnis gets a $300,000 “fellowship” from the Hasan Foundation, an outfit funded by a wealthy Colorado family who also happen to be major donors to republican candidates.
2. To “earn” the 300 grand, McInnis agrees to write a series of essays on Colorado water issues.
3. McInnis takes another job at a Denver law firm and apparently passes the buck to someone else, a western slope “water expert” who actually writes the essays. McInnis then cheerfully signs a document confirming that the essays are his own, original work.
4. The Denver Post reveals that substantial portions of the essays were lifted verbatim from material written by now-Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs 20 years ago.
5. McInnis blames it all on the guy he hired to do “research.”
Strangely, I have a dog in this fight.
Four years ago, when I first joined the Business Journal, then-editor Mike Boyd let me do a six-part series on water in the west. It was certainly the most fascinating, interesting, and challenging project that I’d ever undertaken in my years as a journalist. I thought that I knew a lot about water – I didn’t.
I compensated for my ignorance by talking to guys like the late Chips Barry at the Denver Water Board, Pat Mulroy at the Southern Nevada Water Authority, and Bruce McCormick at Colorado Springs Utilities. I talked to environmentalists, historians, water buffaloes, and climatologists. I found the subject so vast, so complex, and so intertwined with every aspect of life in the west that I seriously considered trying to extend the pieces into a book-until I realized that I’d have to take two years off work to do it.
So here’s McInnis, given the job that every serious journalist in America dreams of, and he won’t do it. He blows it off.
That’s because he never intended to write anything of substance, and the Hasan Foundation never imagined that he would. It was just baksheesh, a little walking around money, the modern equivalent of no-show job on the Mob-controlled Jersey waterfront of the 1950′s.
It’s pretty clear what happened. Whoever wrote these thin little essays, whether McInnis or his “researcher” thought that he could get way with lifting content from Hobbs’ 1990 material, because he didn’t think they’d come up on a Google search.
Now things are unraveling. The erstwhile paymasters, the Hasan Foundation, want their money back, pretending that they actually expected McInnis to write some serious-type material. McInnis is twisting slowly in the wind, although he apparently doesn’t realize it.
As one prominent Republican told me in disgust, “He just handed Hickenlooper the election. After so many people worked so hard for him, and got Penry out of the way, and gave him money and support-and he blindsided every one of them. You don’t recover from something like this.”
My advice: Scott, take a couple of years off, live off your money from the Hasan Foundation, and write that book about water.
You might call it “Running Downhill.”