July 16, 2010
Dear Congressman Scott McInnis -
As a sometime freelance writer, I was really impressed with you before it was revealed that you committed massive plagiarism in writing your once-secret water articles. But now I'm in awe of you.
In my last letter, I pointed out that you must have a ton of tricks up your sleeve to have gotten the Hasan Family Foundation to pay $300,000 for 150 double-spaced pages, meaning you got, as you put it, a "sweet" $5.75 every time you typed the word "water."
I practically begged you to help me come up with a writing topic, like "water," that would land me a paycheck like yours. Or a title for a series of in-depth articles, like "Musings on Water," that would so impress an editor that I could get $2,000 per page like you did.
I'd still like your help with those things, but it seems, with this plagiarism deal, that you've taken freelance writing to a new level, unheard of before.
So I'm hoping you can bring me up to speed on how you pulled it off. I realize you're busy being a gubernatorial candidate, but I'm hoping you can sit down with me and other freelance writers to discuss your method. Specifically the following:
You avoided writing. One of the things writers hate to do is write. The blank page is terrifying, and the fewer of them you have to face, the better. You found a way to turn over this dreaded experience to another person. Brilliant. Do you have other tips on how freelance writers can write less?
You made a sweet-paying gig even sweeter. My calculation that you made $2,000 per page was based on 150 pages. You aren't telling reporters how many of the 150 pages you actually wrote yourself, but let's assume, to be on the safe side, that you wrote half of them yourself. That boosts your pay to $4,000 per page or $11.50 per word. So each time you typed, "Musings on Water" you got $34.50! Do you have tips on how I can write half as much and get paid twice as much? (By the way, it was clever of you, and of course lucrative, to add unnecessary words to your articles by typing your title, "Musings on Water," on each article, rather than just at the beginning of the work, like they teach you in grade school. Why be bound by convention?)
You scored a way cheap researcher. I was amazed that you were able to find a water expert willing to write your articles for you for a "few hundred dollars" per article, while you were raking in about $10,000 per article. How did you negotiate your payment for your underling writer, Rolly Fischer? Did you offer him $50 per article and work up to $300 to make him feel well-paid? Or did you make your $300 offer and tell him to take it or leave it, knowing that researchers and writers often face the dual problems of being desperate as well as bad negotiators? I'd really appreciate your guidance on how to set the salary of a researcher or underling writer.
You've kept your job. Finally, and probably most importantly, any professional freelance writer would have been fired immediately, or forced to resign, if massive plagiarism were discovered. You're not only still on the job, but fighting back and demonstrating backbone that most meek freelancers lack. Your latest TV ad shows you with pen in hand, just like you'd expect a water writer to appear. Do you have tips on how other freelancers can manage to stay employed once their plagiarism has become known to others, much less the entire state of Colorado?
I'm sort of concerned about one thing. The Hasan Foundation has asked you to return most of its money. This presents a problem for you, but I've noticed that you have not said you'll give it back. You've demonstrated some killer negotiating skills in getting the $300,000 deal in the first place, so I have full confidence that you will figure out a way to slip out of the plagiarism mess without paying back a dime. I'm already looking forward to hearing how you do it.
But even if you have to give some of the money back, you should know that you'll definitely have the respect of the freelance writing community for breaking free from the normal rules that bind writers to their desks.
You've allowed me and other freelancers to dream of a day when we can be freelance writers and not write at all. As a leader, you're trying to head us in that direction by experimenting with new freelance ideas and techniques. Some will surely fail, but that's to be expected as you work toward a world where freelance writers are paid more and work less.
As I wrote before, "Honorable" Congressman, whether you're elected or not, you have secured your spot as a rock star of the freelance writing community in Colorado.
Please let us know at your earliest convenience when you will be able to meet with me and other writers to advise us on how we can be as successful as you at freelance writing.