06/22/2010 05:30 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Time For McInnis to Come Clean on $300,000 Sweet-Heart Deal


It's no wonder that former Congressman-turned-lobbyist-turned-gubernatorial candidate, Scott McInnis finds himself in an embarrassing primary against a largely unknown businessman, Dan Maes.

Even hard core Republicans are scratching their heads and wondering why McInnis won't tell Colorado voters how he managed to become a millionaire while he was serving in Congress and what the whole story is behind an amazing $300,000 payment made to him by the Hasan Foundation after he left Congress to become a full-time lobbyist.

McInnis has no one but himself to blame for the public questions now swirling around his candidacy - questions that go right to whether he can be trusted to be transparent and accountable to the people of Colorado.

These questions emerged earlier this year when McInnis broke with a decades-long tradition in Colorado politics by refusing to release his tax returns. For the last two decades, every serious gubernatorial candidate - Republican and Democrat alike -- has released their tax returns so that voters can decide for themselves what kind of person might serve in the highest office in our state. Roy Romer did it. Bill Owens did it. And Democrat John Hickenlooper has gone beyond any candidate in Colorado political history by releasing more than 20 years of his tax returns.

But not Scott McInnis. So my question is simple: What does Congressman McInnis have to hide?

He may want to hide the details surrounding a very mysterious set of payments that the Hasan Family Foundation made to McInnis after he abruptly left office in 2003. According to news reports in the Denver Post, McInnis was paid a series of $150,000 payments totaling a whopping $300,000 for writing some articles on "water policy".

The Hasan family has supported Republican candidates with campaign contributions, including McInnis, so that's not surprising. What is surprising is that, according to their website, the Hasan Family Foundation was set up to promote "education in the arts" and to promote "better understanding of the Muslim and South Asian cultures to the people of the United States." So why would they award a fellowship - an unusually generous fellowship - to a former Congressman to write articles about water?

In old-time politics, the public would have called this a "kickback" or a "sweet-heart deal."

According to the Denver Post, which got hold of the Hasan Family Foundation's tax records, three people have been paid fellowships by the foundation, including Muhammed Ali Hasan, the son of the foundation's founder, Dr. Malik Hasan, as well as Akbar S. Ahmed, a professor of Islamic studies in Washington. D.C. The third fellow is Scott McInnis and he was paid the most to write some incredibly boring articles entitled "Musings on Water."

It was a very sweet deal. McInnis acknowledged as much when he was interviewed on the Capilis and Silverman show about his relationship with the foundation in April. McInnis said, "I was thrilled to do it. I got paid to do it. That was pretty sweet."

Pretty sweet indeed. In addition to making an income of $2.9 million as a lobbyist (reported by the Denver Post) after leaving Congress, McInnis didn't think there was anything wrong accepting what looks to be a phony "fellowship" from a political ally under the auspices of a charitable foundation for an additional $300,000. Whether McInnis reported this as income and paid taxes on it can only be speculated upon, since he refuses to release his tax returns.

I'd say the only thing better than winning the Colorado Lottery is to land a fellowship with the Hasan Family Foundation.

What next? I trust that the people of Colorado, whether they are Democrats, Independents or Republicans will want to know that the next Governor of Colorado is a person who is trustworthy, and also someone who embodies the values of transparency and accountability in public service.

So even though he has decided to hide his financial past and has avoided answering questions about the Hasan Family Foundation Fellowship and other questions about how he became a millionaire while serving in Congress, I trust that opinion leaders in this state and the public will eventually insist that McInnis come clean. That would be a "sweet deal" for the citizens of Colorado.