One of These Senate Candidates is a McPlagiarist

MONDAY UPDATE: According to today’s story in the Colorado Springs daily paper, both Republican Owen Hill and Libertarian Doug Randall have turned over additional ‘evidence’ to support their respective claims. Randall forwarded emails to family members with draft versions of the copy in question, while Hill’s campaign sent a .PDF that appears to have begun life as a screenshot, showing a ‘publish date’ for his original issues pages in mid-January of this year.

But the ‘evidence’ submitted by both candidates to back up their claims has problems. Randall’s forwarded emails are purportedly from May and July (later than Hill asserts his issues pages were published), while Hill’s ‘screenshot’ doesn’t even show the actual copy alleged to have been plagiarized. In both cases, the Springs paper correctly notes that this soft-copy ‘evidence’ is easily doctored and not sufficient to prove the claims of either side: in the absence of that proof, the only thing you can be certain of is the subject line of our post (see above).

Either way, it doesn’t seem to be a “nonissue” anymore…

To be perfectly honest, it’s not something that we expected to need revisiting after former GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis went from ahead in the polls to totally irrelevant primary loser in less than a month, but apparently, some of you out there still haven’t gotten the message that plagiarism by a political candidate is a potentially career-ending mistake, and is never worth it. A story today in the major Colorado Springs newspaper could portend major problems for GOP state senate candidate Owen Hill, running against incumbent John Morse in SD-11.

Since the Colorado Springs daily paper is unfortunately on the list of papers who won’t let us quote them, we’ll summarize the nature of Mr. Hill’s problem this way. Here’s what Hill’s website says about, for example, education:

Pretty standard copy, nothing to get overly worked up about one way or another–unless you’re Hill’s Libertarian opponent Doug Randall. If you visit Randall’s website to read about education, you’ll find remarkably similar–as in functionally identical–copy:

And yes, it’s the same G.K. Chesterton quote too. The copy does diverge with some McInnis-style “variations,” substituting verbs and articles and so forth, but it’s obviously the same material. In short, somebody is definitely plagiarizing somebody else here. Hill’s spokesman claims it’s his original writing, and says Hill’s site has been “up forever;” but amazingly, then pronounces the whole affair a “nonissue” in true Sean Duffy style.

It’s the nonchalant reaction by Hill’s campaign that really sets off alarm bells. There is no question that significant plagiarism occurred–one of these candidates deliberately stole the verbatim words of the other. Randall says it wasn’t him and seems genuinely angry about the alleged theft. Now, if Hill’s campaign was certain they were in the clear, meaning they knew they had been victimized as opposed to having committed plagiarism…well, would you call it a “nonissue?” After watching the GOP gubernatorial frontrunner implode over plagiarism, would you be so casual about this?

Of course not. You’d be shouting from the rooftops that you had been defrauded by one of your own opponents. You’d be calling the newspapers and demanding an apology, and you’d be filing complaints with every oversight authority that remotely applies.

Meaning you’d be doing what Doug Randall is doing.

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  1. Barron X says:

    .

    from the site of the ACP candidate, Orkeem Bundarahr, who has since dropped out in order to spend more time with his family.

    .

  2. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    Except for Hill’s reaction. Sorry, you don’t have your words ripped off wholesale like this by somebody on the ballot against you and call it a fucking “non issue.” That’s just ridiculous. If not for that there would need to be more proof of who plagiarized who. Randall says he has that proof in the Gazette story.

      • JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

        And Hill seems to have all kinds of “technical problems” with his website.

        http://www.gazette.com/article

        Because The Gazette does not have administrative access to either candidate’s computers or websites, the printouts supplied by Randall and McIntire could not be authenticated. It’s possible to fabricate e-mails, just as it’s possible to fabricate or change the publication date of blog posts.

        Sorting out the competing claims is made more complex by the fact that the Hill campaign is running separate websites that have a nearly identical appearance. However, they have different URLs and do not display the same material under the “issues” category.

        When I Google for Hill’s site I can only get the new version, I’ve only seen the “old” version through the links here and at the Gazette. But the “old” version, if it’s the old version, is what has the grafs that are virtually identical to Randall’s site.

        The whole thing is weird, but I haven’t seen anything that exonerates Hill, and his evidence pdf doesn’t do it. Just claims and counterclaims between righties…

  3. bjwilson83 says:

    that the Republican party is using their platform? No!

    • JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

      This is genuinely funny. Good job.

      Yes, the GOP does steal essentially a Libertarian platform for every election, then become big-government lovers of a different stripe afterwards. I personally believe that Libertarians are truer representatives of conservatism than Republicans. Libertarians walk the talk while Republicans fake it for votes.

  4. abraham says:

    We seem to be following the J Edger Hoover model of finding a communist under every bed to finding plagiarism in every printed piece.

    What McInnis did was truly plagiarism, and the unforgivable sin was trying to get out from being accountable by throwing Fischer under the bus.  But, political communication – both written and verbal – is dominated by other person’s work.  Some of it is given attribution, some of it is not.  Sometimes the candidate or the campaign thinks something is in the public domain or in colloquial speech because it gets repeated so often.

    Some of it is just sloppy work.  Seems like there is more sloppy work than there used to be.

    But journalists are not immune, either.  I bet about every experienced campaign consultant can cite examples where a journalist lifting something directly from campaign literature or a web site and built it into the story.  That then gets picked up by other journalists as well because they really do swipe one another’s work.

    So before we all run around clucking our collective tongue at instances of alleged plagaiarism, let’s take a moment to make sure that none of us has ever gotten lazy or sloppy done something similar.

    • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

      Lots of people have affairs. That doesn’t mean it’s no big deal you have one. It’s still wrong. What you seem to miss is there is a big difference between copying someone else’s idea, there aren’t many original ideas in politics, and stealing someone’s phrasing. Ideas you can borrow, phrasing you cannot.

    • bullshit!bullshit! says:

      Either way, what you’re describing is not what happened. One of the people in this story is accusing the other of plagiarizing him. It’s not a case of both parties using the same Heritage Foundation crib sheet.

      Read the highlighted quotes. That’s not “colloquial speech,” it’s bald-faced plagiarism. You don’t write something identical down to two meaningless words unless you’re reading the original.

      As for who plagiarized who, I dunno. Wayback Machine it. It’s a good point about the laid back reaction from the R though, what’s up with that?

    • CastleMan says:

      When politicians plagiarize, they are sending the message – loud and clear – that they are not honest.

      We elect people to office on the basis of the ideas they articulate. If they, instead, steal someone else’s ideas, and even the language in which those ideas are expressed, then what they are doing is robbing the public of an opportunity to have a clear  look at their point of view.

      Moreover, plagiarism amounts to laziness and a disrespect for the work of others.

      “Everyone does it” is, indeed, no excuse for this kind of conduct. Moreover, plagiarism is not nearly as common as you imply. Certainly journalists adhere to an ethical prohibition against it. Lawyers, too, are bound by their Rules of Professional Conduct to avoid it.

      Now, we all know that most politicians couldn’t care less about ethics, and a goodly number of them have none. But that doesn’t mean that we should be so quick to write off Mr. Hill’s brazen intellectual laziness, dishonesty, and willingness to insult the voting public by pretending that his campaign’s conduct is (a) not a big deal, and (b) no different than what everyone else does.

      This behavior should be disqualifying, plain and simple.

      • Laughing Boy says:

        Like the Vice President, eh?

        • CastleMan says:

          was forced to drop out of the 1988 presidential race when his plagiarism became known. He also apologized for it, took full responsibility, and did not attempt to make lame excuses.

          I didn’t say a plagiarist should FOREVER be disqualified from public office. A mistake is not a life sentence. I said he or she should be disqualified, and what I meant is that he or she should not be elected to the office he or she is seeking in the current election cycle.

          People deserve a chance to learn from their mistakes, after all.

    • Half Glass FullHalf Glass Full says:

      We seem to be following the Joe McCarthy model of finding a communist under every bed to finding plagiarism in every piece of print.

      What McInnis did truly was plagiarism, and the unforgivable sin was his trying to get out from being accountable by throwing Fischer under the bus.

      But let’s face it: political communication – both written and verbal – is dominated by other persons’ work.  Some of it is given attribution, some of it is not.  Sometimes the candidate or the campaign thinks something is in the public domain or in colloquial speech because it gets repeated so often.

      Some of it is just sloppy work.  It seems like there’s more sloppy work than there used to be.

      But journalists aren’t immune, either.  I’ll bet just about every experienced campaign consultant can cite examples where a journalist lifted something directly from campaign literature or a web site and built it into the story.  That then gets picked up by other journalists as well, or maybe – because they really do swipe one another’s work. Bloggers are the worst of this stripe.

      So before we all run around clucking our collective tongues at instances of alleged plagaiarism, let’s take a moment to make sure that none of us has ever gotten lazy or sloppy, or done something similar. I’m pretty sure I haven’t – but if I inadvertently have, it really is a non-issue.

  5. CatPiper says:

    Owen Hill has responded to the plagiarism allegations on his website at http://owenhillforsenate.com.  Curiouser and curiouser…

  6. Owen Hill is a good friend and I’ve also given him the max contribution

    Owen would never plagiarize – I believe his word and stand by it  

    • Half Glass FullHalf Glass Full says:

      He hired some campaign consultant or whatever who did. But the proper response is to discipline the person who plagiarized, fess up, and move on. The coverup’s worse than the crime.

  7. Dawg03 says:

    First of all, I’m a friend of Owen’s and have followed his campaign closely.  Owen is a good man and a man of integrity, something very hard to find in politics these days. Many of you don’t know him so don’t be so quick to pass judgement based on poor journaism. Please note his official website is and has been for some time http://www.owenhillforsenate.com

    What troubles me about this whole situation is you have this 3rd party candidate who goes to the paper and makes a serious accusation without showing proof. He may claim to have proof (anyone can claim that) but I want to see it in writing.  Apparently the Gazette does not require that.  Equally troubling is the writer above treats Randall’s claim as a serious one, yet does nothing to get the facts either. How can anyone take this guy seriously when he hasn’t raised a dime for his own campaign, nor hasn’t done any campaign events.  Seems to me like a cheap way to get your name out there by using the accusation of the year – plagiarism. Meanwhile the Hill campaign released a statement (which you can read on his website I mentioned above) proving that these words are indeed Owen’s. Funny – I haven’t heard anything from the Randall campaign since.

    It’s sad that anyone can make and accusation and the papers will report it… err, any liberal can make an accusation against a conservative,and the paper will report it. The burden of proof should be on Mr. Doug Randall.

    Shame on the Gazette and Colorado Pols.  Journalism is indeed dead.  

  8. …on this press release, unlike the last press release that was up there yesterday.  

  9. bjwilson83 says:

    ColoradoPols you’re just ruining your credibility by promoting this story.

    http://www.peoplespresscollect

  10. DaftPunkDaftPunk says:

    From the NY Times.

    About journalism, not poiltics, but interesting nonetheless.

    • ajb says:

      After spending the entire column writing about how overblown plagiarism is, Fish (the author) concludes with this:

      This brings me back to the (true) story I began with. Whether there is something called originality or not, the two scholars who began their concluding chapter by reproducing two of my pages are professionally culpable. They took something from me without asking and without acknowledgment, and they profited – if only in the currency of academic reputation – from work that I had done and signed. That’s the bottom line and no fancy philosophical argument can erase it.

      I tend to agree that plagiarism is a problem only as much as the perp profits from it. For a position paper on a campaign website (most likely drafted by a staffer) for a state senate seat? Not so much.

  11. bullshit!bullshit! says:

    Why was this text removed from the “newer” version of Hill’s website? The issue page up now does not have this plagiarized text on it.

    Wayback Machine isn’t helping, neither of them seem to have any Wayback records at all. According to Wayback, it takes six months for a website to appear. That would explain Randall’s site not being there. But it DOES NOT HELP OWEN, who says his website was up six months ago.

    There are a lot of unanswered questions, but the two different versions of Owen Hill’s website, and the lack of any web archive history of his supposedly older site, is very strange and doesn’t comport with what he is saying. And Hill’s “proof” is a joke, a publish date on a website back end MEANS NOTHING when you can see the “edit” link right next to it.

  12. Ryan.Parsell says:

    Randall is quoted (can I say it’s on the Gazette Article?) as concluding that “someone reached into [Randall’s] server and lifted the work before Randall had a chance to post them on his campaign website.”

    Seriously?  Owens went that out of his way to steal something from a no-name joke like Randall?  Please!  This is getting ridiculous!  Anyone who wants to hang their hat on the guy who thinks someone literally stole it from his server should be embarrassed!

    • JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

      Which isn’t actually a quote if you look at it, just makes me think he doesn’t understand the internet. Hill’s response doesn’t make me think he does any better.

      But Randall does say he thinks the text went up “last week,” which would have been plenty of time for Hill to get it from Randall’s website.

      You’ll need to do better to smear this guy methinks. It might not be hard to do, I’m not going out on a limb for it. But I do like rightie fights!

      • Ryan.Parsell says:

        How can you say it isn’t a quote?  From the un-mentionable article directly: “Randall insisted on Sunday that only he and his siblings had seen the writings until they showed up on Hill’s second website only last week. And that must mean, he said, that someone reached into his own server and lifted the work before Randall had a chance to post them on his campaign site.”

        So at the point you can tell me that isn’t a quote is the point you can call my assertion a smear!  🙂

        • JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

          In the English language, a “quote” is delineated by something called “quotation marks.” I’ve just supplied two examples. The passage you are referring to is more of a paraphrase, indicated by the lack of quotation marks, which means that may or may not be exactly what he said.

          Awesome how you learn this stuff in college.

          • Ryan.Parsell says:

            The careful application of sarcasim here at pols is always refreshing.  Well played, sir (or ma’am, I guess I don’t know…), well played.

            In any case, your lesson in grammar doesn’t change the fact that Randall in some form, told the reporter that he believed that someone actually lifted the works from Randall’s computer before he had a chance to publish them.  If that’s the best this guy can come up with, I don’t see the point of taking him seriously.

  13. rwnemanich says:

    This kind of stuff can kill the media campaign.

    Here is the problem for Hill if he indeed was lax in creating his own copy.

    They can find the original pages…if they want to…and the press can get it.  

  14. I just googled my tagline, “STOP THE INSANITY”

    and found the following,

    http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2

    Seems like Newt was saying this back in January, referring to the bailouts.

    I also noticed there was someone who used this as a saying for a diet infomercial.

    No harm No foul

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