Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What Is Romney Hiding?


(Reuters) - "Mitt Romney spent nearly $100,000 in state funds to replace computers in his office at the end of his term as governor of Massachusetts in 2007 as part of an unprecedented effort to keep his records secret, Reuters has learned. The move during the final weeks of Romney's administration was legal but unusual for a departing governor, Massachusetts officials say. When Romney left the governorship of Massachusetts, 11 of his aides bought the hard drives of their state-issued computers to keep for themselves. Also before he left office, the governor's staff had emails and other electronic communications by Romney's administration wiped from state servers, state officials say. Those actions erased much of the internal documentation of Romney's four-year tenure as governor, which ended in January 2007. Precisely what information was erased is unclear. Republican and Democratic opponents of Romney say the scrubbing of emails - and a claim by Romney that paper records of his governorship are not subject to public disclosure - hinder efforts to assess his performance as a politician and elected official. As Massachusetts governor, Romney worked with a Democrat-led state house to close a budget shortfall and signed a healthcare overhaul that required nearly all state residents to buy insurance or face penalties. Massachusetts' healthcare law became a model for Obama's nationwide healthcare program, enacted into law in 2010. As a presidential candidate, however, Romney has criticized Obama's plan as an overreach by the federal government. Massachusetts officials say they have no basis to believe that Romney's staff violated any state laws or policies in removing his administration's records. They acknowledge, however, that state law on maintaining and disclosing official records is vague and has not been updated to deal with issues related to digital records and other modern technology. Romney's spokesmen emphasize that he followed the law and precedent in deleting the emails, installing new computers in the governor's office and buying up hard drives. However, Theresa Dolan, former director of administration for the governor's office, told Reuters that Romney's efforts to control or wipe out records from his governorship were unprecedented. Dolan said that in her 23 years as an aide to successive governors "no one had ever inquired about, or expressed the desire" to purchase their computer hard drives before Romney's tenure. The cleanup of records by Romney's staff before his term ended included spending $205,000 for a three-year lease on new computers for the governor's office, according to official documents and state officials. In signing the lease, Romney aides broke an earlier three-year lease that provided the same number of computers for about half the cost - $108,000. Lease documents obtained by Reuters under the state's freedom of information law indicate that the broken lease still had 18 months to run."  Hmmm...