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Romney campaign battles Dems, press over issue of transparency

 

There it was this morning, on the front page of the Boston Globe, a headline no campaign ever wants to read: "Before leaving office, Romney staff wiped records."

The story's first paragraph leveled an equally jarring accusation:

Just before Mitt Romney left the Massachusetts governor’s office and first ran for president, 11 of his top aides purchased their state-issued computer hard drives, and the Romney administration’s e-mails were all wiped from a server, according to interviews and records obtained by the Globe.

The Globe story went on to detail how nearly a dozen aides paid some $65 each to purchase their work computer hard drives -- proved by cancelled checks, provided to the Globe -- and that new servers were installed for the incoming Democratic administration of Deval Patrick in 2006. The result? There are no electronic records of any Romney administration emails, although boxes of paper documents do exist in state storage facilities.

The Romney campaign told the Globe that the Romney staffers, including his former chief of staff and deputy chief of staff-- who each went on to play major roles in his 2008 campaign and the current campaign -- did nothing wrong.

“In leaving office, the governor’s staff complied with the law and longtime executive branch practice,’’ Campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul told the Globe. “Some employees exercised the option to purchase computer equipment when they left. They did so openly with personal checks.’’

And this afternoon, the Romney campaign aggressively pushed back against the Patrick administration, accusing the current Massachusetts governor, a close ally of President Obama, of running a "dirty tricks shop" on behalf of the president.

That statement came in a letter to Gov.  Patrick's office, along with an accompanying Freedom of Information Act request asking the governor's office to turn over any communications between themselves and three top Obama campaign officials, going back to 2007.

"[I]t is evident that your office has become an opposition research arm of the Obama reelection campaign.  The latest example occurred yesterday when your chief legal counsel, Mark Reilly, in the absence of a legitimate public records request, supplied The Boston Globe with copies of cancelled checks from 2006 documenting the lawful purchase of computer equipment by departing members of the Romney administration," The letter from Romney campaign manager Matt Rhodes read in part.  "This action was nothing more than a weak attempt to disparage practices that you know were in complete compliance with the law."

In what was either a serendipitous coincidence or a preemptive strike, this morning, the Romney campaign issued a memo to reporters entitled "Obsessed with Secrecy," in which they accuse President Obama of having "turned his back on his campaign promises of openness and transparency." The memo cites more than a dozen examples of alleged censorship, obfuscation or shoddy record-keeping by the Obama administration.

While the battle with the president and Patrick administration over transparency may rage on, the Globe story raises this question for the Romney campaign: just how open and transparent would a Romney administration be?

For example, the Romney campaign is highly guarded about his fundraising. The campaign does not, as a general rule, comment on where or when Romney will be holding fundraising events.

Also, the campaign -- like its GOP rivals but unlike President Obama’s re-election effort -- has refused to release a list of Romney's bundlers, the high-level fundraisers who corral donations from their friends and associates on behalf of a candidate.

And Romney, a former business executive thought to be worth well north of $200 million dollars, has yet to release his tax returns, or, for that matter, his medical records.