There was a point not too long at which Mitt Romney thought it’d be a good idea to attack President Obama for lacking openness and transparency. The Republican campaign ultimately dropped the line of attack, and under the circumstances, that was a very good idea.
The former Massachusetts governor appears to be setting new standards for secrecy among presidential candidates. The list is probably pretty familiar by now: Romney has secret tax returns, secret hard drives from his gubernatorial tenure that were destroyed, a secret list of fundraising bundlers, secret finances, and in some cases, even secret policy details he won’t share until after the election.
And this week, we’re learning that many of the details of Romney’s role in the 2002 Olympics have also been kept from the public.
Mitt Romney promised “complete transparency” when he took charge of the scandal-plagued Salt Lake City Olympics, a pledge that included access to his own correspondence and plans for an extensive public archive of documents related to the Games.
But some who worked with Romney describe a close-to-the-vest chief executive unwilling to share so much as a budget with a state board responsible for spending oversight. Archivists now say most key records about the Games’ internal workings were destroyed under the supervision of a staff member shortly after the flame was extinguished at Olympic Cauldron Park, after Romney had returned to Massachusetts.
“Transparency? There was none with [the Salt Lake Organizing Committee] when he was there,” said Kenneth Bullock, a committee member who represented the Utah League of Cities and Towns. “Their transparency became a black hole. It was nonexistent.”
A decade later, the archival records from the Romney-led Olympics still aren’t open to the public.
In fairness, it’s worth noting that Romney’s Olympic organizing committee wasn’t obligated by law to disclose materials, despite the use of taxpayer money. What’s more, Romney claims he’d already left Utah when officials decided to destroy many of the materials.
Also note, it’s the University of Utah that holds the archival records, and it’s not Romney’s call how much the school discloses.
Still, it represents yet another question mark over Romney’s record, and looks even more suspect given that he promised in 2002 “the most open-documents policy of any enterprise” – a promise he did not keep.
As for why Romney chose not to be more transparent, and still appears reluctant to talk in detail about his Olympic record, the answer probably has something to do with his success resting on a taxpayer bailout of the games he helped run.