Is Bill Ritter guilty of plagiarizing? That's what investigative website Face the State seems to be suggesting, having dug up a 2008 Veterans Day commentary bylined by Ritter in 2008 that has more than a passing resemblance to a Veterans Day speech given by Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski four years earlier.
In other words, did Ritter pull a Scott McInnis? Or by rushing to break the story, did Face the State pull a Denver Post -- since the Post had to equivocate on a second McInnis plagiarism claim last week after the alleged source of the plagiarism, whom the paper had failed to contact, insisted McInnis hadn't done anything wrong.
Here are the two pieces of text discovered by Face the State, one from an article on Bill Ritter's website that was sent to Colorado newspapers and one from a Kulongoski speech on November 11, 2004. As you can see, they are pretty similar.
...I have signed a proclamation proclaiming November to be 'Hire a Veteran First Month' in Colorado. I am encouraging employers statewide to hire as many veterans as possible, and not only during this month in which our thoughts turn to veterans, but as a long-term matter of policy.
When leaving military service, having a job can make all the difference for veterans and their families. So if you are an employer, take part in 'Hire a Veteran Month,' and hire a veteran this month, next month, or whenever you have the opportunity. If you have employees who are called to active duty, make sure their jobs are waiting for them when they return. Let that be your thanks for their service. Employers who hire veterans will tell you that it is not merely a way of saying thanks, but see it as an investment. Veterans know what it means to work hard. The leadership, sense of teamwork and discipline they bring to a job is what every employer needs.
There is also another way to thank a veteran and it is a very simple act. It doesn't involve special programs or parades or proclamations. Simply offer them your hand and thank them for their service. It is the best way for you to let them know that you recognize what they have done and that it has not been forgotten or taken for granted...
...I have signed a proclamation proclaiming November to be 'Hire a Veteran Month' in Oregon. I am encouraging employers statewide to hire as many veterans as possible, not only during this month, but as a long-term matter of policy.
When leaving military service, having a job can make all the difference for veterans and their families. So, if you are an employer, take part in 'Hire a Veteran Month.' Hire a veteran this month, next month, or whenever you have the opportunity. If you have employees who are called to active duty, make sure their jobs are waiting for them when they return. Let that be your thanks for their service.
There is a final way to thank a Veteran. It is simple. It doesn't involve special programs, or parades or grand announcements. Simply offer them your hand and thank them for their service. It is the best way for you to let them know, that you recognize what things they have done and that their sacrifices have not been forgotten...
Face the State is careful never to use the "P" word -- plagiarism, a terms that around Colorado these days seems to be as scandalous as Hester Prynne's scarlet "A." But is this a case of Ritter stealing from Kulongoski? Ritter Spokesperson Evan Dreyer hasn't looked into the matter thoroughly, but he doesn't think that's the case. "My guess is this is an actual program around the country and governors referencing the program at various times pick up on it and try to promote it," Dreyer says of "Hire a Veteran Month," a concept that a variety of states have in fact utilized. "And they probably use some of the messaging in various program materials in speeches or proclamations or letters."
Not that Face the State would have known that -- since Dreyer says no one associated with the site contacted the governor's office before publishing the post.
But that would mean Kulongoski took his speech from an outside source, too -- and Anna Richter Taylor, the Oregon governor's press secretary, is pretty sure that's not the case. "I don't believe this speech was derived from anywhere else," she says. "I feel pretty certain that this was the governor's speech that the governor and his speechwriter worked on." She says she isn't 100-percent positive, however, since the speechwriter who would have been involved is on vacation and can't be reached.
Whatever the circumstances behind the similar Veterans Day tributes, Dreyer believes the situation isn't in the same league as what McInnis is in hot water for. "This is an effort by this organization to promote a worthy cause," he says. "It is not at all akin to a candidate pretending that a piece of work is original and worth $300,000. This is two different things."
Richter Taylor also insists that whatever happened between the two Democratic governors, it's not a big deal. "Governor Kulongoski has a great deal of respect for Governor Ritter," she says. "He's aware of the issue, but it's a non-issue. As far as he's concerned, anything on his website is in the public domain and if people see it and want to use it, they're welcome to."
You know what they say: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And it seems that Kulongoski's office is feeling quite flattered.