Image: Scott McInnis
David Zalubowski  /  AP
In a May 22, 2010 photo, Colorado gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis talks to delegates at the Colorado Republican State Assembly in Loveland, Colo.
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updated 7/15/2010 8:44:01 AM ET 2010-07-15T12:44:01

A researcher whom Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis blamed for plagiarism allegations said Wednesday he won't sign a letter from the campaign owning up to what happened because he claims McInnis is lying.

The claim by 82-year-old Rolly Fischer is the latest to plague McInnis after the plagiarism allegations against him surfaced this week. Fischer told KMGH-TV that McInnis' campaign sent him a letter to sign in which Fischer would say the alleged plagiarism was his fault.

"This mistake was solely my own, and I recognize that my work fell short of the expectations you had when you included me in this project," read the letter Fischer provided to KMGH.

The work Fischer was referring to was a series of allegedly plagiarized essays on water rights that McInnis passed off as his own in 2005. Fischer said he provided work to McInnis but claimed he didn't know McInnis planned to submit the work as his own.

McInnis spokesman Sean Duffy said Fischer previously acknowledged to McInnis and his staff that what happened was his fault.

"Rolly's comments (to KMGH) don't reflect the conversations that I and other members of the staff and Scott had with him over the last two days," he said.

Duffy said that Fischer apologized to McInnis for the plagiarism allegations that had surfaced and he had explained that the research he provided to the campaign was "in the public domain."

"In his mind, he thought that was free for the taking," Duffy said.

McInnis has spent the week brushing off the plagiarism allegations as a minor issue, even as calls escalated for him to own up to his mistakes and pay back $300,000 he received to write the essays. McInnis said he takes the allegations seriously, but doesn't believe voters will hold it against him.

"The issue most people are concerned about now is family, jobs, the economy. That's going to be the issue," McInnis said.

The Denver Post and KMGH-TV first reported the plagiarism allegations on the water essays on Monday. Then on Wednesday, The Denver Post reported that a 1994 column McInnis wrote for the now-closed Rocky Mountain News in Denver resembled an Op-Ed published in The Washington Post by Richard V. Allen and Daryl M. Plunk. Allen and Plunk's piece was published Nov. 9, 1994. McInnis' was published Dec. 21, 1994, when he was a Colorado congressman.

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The revelations sparked demands from Democrats that McInnis drop out of the race, and The Post called the candidate's actions "intellectual thievery" and said he should end his candidacy.

Dan Maes, McInnis' opponent in the August primary, stopped short of asking McInnis to bow out — though he said if plagiarism appears to be chronic, that's another matter.

"He's trying to put the blame on others. If you don't take responsibility on your watch, it says something about your character," Maes said.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper did not respond to a request for comment. The Denver mayor has no primary competition.

McInnis said he relied on others for his materials in both cases, but he should have reviewed them more carefully.

"I should have had experts checking the experts," he said.

In one passage, Allen and Plunk wrote, "There is a growing popular belief in South Korea that the North has outmaneuvered Washington and marginalized the South's role."

McInnis column said, "There is growing South Korean sentiment that North Korea has outmaneuvered Washington and marginalized the South's input into this issue."

McInnis said he isn't sure who on his staff wrote the column and a speech he later delivered on the House floor that also resembled the Washington Post Op-Ed.

"In Congress, you have lots of staff. I had hundreds of pages a day go out of my congressional office with my signature on it. We have no idea of the base material," McInnis said. "Of course I had assistants writing that."

Plunk told KHOW-AM in an interview Wednesday that he collaborated with then-congressman McInnis' office on the piece about Korea and that he didn't consider it plagiarism.

"He had permission to use my work," said Plunk, who described himself as a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a business consultant. "It was a flow of ideas. That's how I would have put it.

"I gave my words to them," said Plunk, who noted he hadn't spoken to McInnis in years, or since McInnis left Washington.

On the water essay, whole sections of McInnis' "Musings On Water" about the history of Colorado water rights were identical to a 1984 article written by Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs. McInnis' essays were accompanied by a 2005 letter stating the essays were original.

Fischer told KMGH that he won't sign the letter the campaign sent him, and said McInnis lying with his explanation about how the plagiarism occurred. Fischer said he thought the materials he was providing McInnis would be "for his own inventory" and that he didn't know McInnis was working for a foundation and planned to publish what Fischer gave him.

"I did not know that he intended to submit that as his personal work," Fischer said.

Duffy, the McInnis spokesman, said the campaign provided draft language of an apology letter to Fischer, but only because he requested it.

"He's now acting like it was a demand," Duffy said. "It was not."

McInnis said he will meet with a foundation that paid him $300,000 for the water articles to see if they want a refund. He said he worked for two years on the project and also gave speeches to earn his fee.

McInnis said he can't guarantee that there are no more plagiarized materials because he spent decades in public office.

Colorado political consultant Floyd Ciruli said voters see plagiarism as a character issue, and it can affect the outcome of elections.

Earlier this year, Idaho Republican Vaughn Ward lost a congressional primary after being accused of lifting position statements from other Republican candidates. In 1987, Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged plagiarizing a British politician's campaign speeches, hurting his presidential aspirations.

Allegations that President Barack Obama borrowed parts of a campaign speech by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, however, had little impact.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Plagiarism charges dog Colo. candidate

  1. Transcript of: Plagiarism charges dog Colo. candidate

    MATTHEWS: that "Sideshow."

    First: a lesson to pols. Those scary skeletons in the closet always come out. Today`s exhibit, Scott McInnis , front-runner for Colorado `s Republican nomination for governor. Back in 2005 , McInnis was paid $300,000 as part of a conservative fellowship to write essays about clean water. The hitch? This week, " The Denver Post " found that large portions of those essays he claimed to have written were lifted from the writings of a Colorado Supreme Court justice. When asked about the plagiarism yesterday, McInnis blamed his research assistant , someone named Rolly Fischer .

    SCOTT MCINNIS (R), COLORADO GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Rolly said, gosh, I did it all through. He thought it was public domain, that information that was in the public domain that he could put into it, so we have just got to straighten that out. I understand there`s some machine or some computer software out there that you can take research and put it in there, and it tells you whether or not it`s similar to other research. I wasn`t aware of that at the time. This is a non-issue, if it weren`t a political race. It`s a political race, and they are going to try and, you know, divert from their weaknesses.

    MATTHEWS: Wow. Well, look, he either wrote this stuff or he didn`t. This is the commonsense part. If he wrote it, it wouldn`t exist somewhere else. Anyway, it`s a bit more than a diversion now. " The Denver Post " reported today that a separate column and a speech that McInnis delivered when he was a congressman in the `90s closely resembles a " Washington Post " column that was published six weeks before that. McInnis told the Associated Press today he`s not sure who on his staff was in charge of writing that column and that speech for him. Anyway, the moral of the story is, only write -- only put your name on something you wrote, or only have somebody write something for you trust. Now, moving to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid `s Republican challenger, Sharron Angle . Why won`t she do mainstream media interviews? Well, they don`t pay off for her campaign, literally. Here`s Angle in a just-posted interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network .

    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you`re on FOX News or -- or -- or talking to more conservative outlets, but maybe not going on a " Meet the Press " or a " This Week ," those type of shows, then the perception and the narrative starts to be like you`re avoiding those mainstream media outlets. SHARRON ANGLE (R), NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Well, and that audience, will they let me say I need $25 from a million people, go to SharronAngle.com , send money? Will they let me say that? Will I get a bump in my -- on my Web site ? And you can watch, whenever I go on to a show like that, we get an immediate bump.

    MATTHEWS: It gets lower and lower. Anyway, Ms. Angle , if you want to come on HARDBALL , we will let you mention your Web site . You can do it right here. Come on, play a little HARDBALL with us, but we might ask you some serious questions.

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