In the midst of everything going on, this story has fallen by the wayside, but it's an important one, especially if you think Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination for 2012. At the end of Romney's term as governor, Romney's staffers destroyed emails, sold publicly-owned hard drives to staffers, and made sure no digital tracks were left behind. This action flies in the face of public records laws in Massachusetts, which require that electronic records be preserved for state archives. (Bush administration, anyone?)
Asked why he purchased his hard drive for $65 just two weeks before leaving office, Romney’s chief legal counsel, Mark Nielsen, couldn’t explain, saying only that he followed the law:
“I’m confident that we complied with the letter and the spirit of the law,’’ he added. When asked why he would want to purchase his hard drive, he said, “Employees were given that option and it was my understanding that it was a longstanding practice in the governor’s office.’’When asked about replacing the remaining computers and wiping the server clean, he said, “All I can tell you is we fully complied with the law and complied with longstanding executive branch practice. Nothing unusual was done.’’
The problem with that statement is that no one can find any precedent for selling hard drives at the end of a term. The Romney campaign notes that they turned over 700 cubic feet of information to the archives, but those are paper records and trying to find anything in them is akin to searching for the proverbial needle in the proverbial haystack.
Which brings us to the interview at the top, where Romney has yet another reason for keeping his hard drives.
Romney and his campaign have so far denied this, with the candidate saying this weekend in New Hampshire that his staff took the highly unusual step of purchasing their work hard drives because they might contain “confidential and private” information. Meanwhile, he’s made calls for greater White House transparency a part of his campaign message.But in a fairly stunning admission today during an interview with the editorial board of the Nashua Telegraph in New Hampshire, Romney suggested that his administration deleted emails because they didn’t want “opposition research teams” to have access to them:
ROMNEY: Well, I think in government we should follow the law. And there has never been an administration that has provided to the opposition research team, or to the public, electronic communications. So ours would have been the first.
That's a new one. An elected official who used equipment paid for by the public he served choosing to withhold information from that same public in order to thwart opposition research?
Just a little bit of what one could expect from a President Romney, who clearly takes his cues from the Karl Rove School of (Non)Transparency.