In a recent Politicus contribution I smudged up Mitt Romney’s “shut down the business and save the girl” legend ever so slightly in debunking the popular lore that Mitt was almost solely responsible for snatching a Bain partner’s 14-year-old daughter, who had horrible judgment and inattentive parents, from the jaws of destruction after a bad Randall’s Island ‘Rave’ XTC trip.
While Mitt did indeed hand out some flyers and traipse through some seedy drug dens, the girl was found in her boyfriend’s house in Montville Township, New Jersey after he called 911 to inquire about a reward and hung up. The police traced the call and located the girl. Romney’s version is ‘WE’ were able to trace that call; there’s yet another version, it was a TV hotline that was called. Romney’s name is not mentioned in the Montville police report of the incident.
Now I’m going to word-bomb Romney again as an opportunist and hypocrite as head of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic in 2002.
You might wonder why the Romney people haven’t made more of a public cause celebre out of his stewardship of this highly successful event featuring 2,400 athletes from 77 countries. I think they’re probably waiting for the London Summer Olympics scheduled to open July 27 and close August 12th. You’ll probably see a bunch of 2002 hyperbole, again characterizing Mitt as an indispensable leader made of stern presidential stuff.
Besides the 2002 Winter games, Mitt also headed the summer companion competition, the Paralympic Games; another 416 athletes from 36 countries. Let’s first take a quick look at the Paralympic games and Mitt so you’ll get an idea of where I’m going here. Paralympic athletes can have any number of physical ‘disabilities’, including cerebral palsy, blindness, amputation, degrees of intellectual impairment and ironically multiple sclerosis, a condition that Mitt’s wife Ann was diagnosed with 14 years ago. It’s currently in remission.
There are 20 sports in the Summer Paralypic games virtually all of them the same ones all athletes play, while 5 events are featured in the Winter Paralympic games. Did I tell you Mitt is a huge fan of Paul Ryan? He slobbers all over Ryan’s budget. Romney loves the guy and his policies so much that Ryan is among a handful being seriously considered as Mitt’s running mate. Oh, and Mitt knows that millions of the disabled would lose their Medicaid coverage in the Ryan budget. Exploit the disabled by enthusiastically heading the 2002 Paralympic Games when you’re running for governor. When running for president favor a budget that would devastate these same people when you think that plays well with the Tea Party crowd.
Back to the main event; the Salt Lake Winter games had commanded international headlines long before 2002. Tracking back to the late ’90’s, guys from the Salt Lake Bid Committee with names like Johnson and Welch headed the effort to bring the games to Salt Lake City. To curry favor from the Intenational Olympic Committee, vested with the final decision-making powers, the committee papered numerous IOC members with money, jobs, even plastic surgery. Once caught, the Salt Lake City leadership was banished and Mitt Romney brought in to head the now-disgraced Salt Lake Olympic Committee (SLOC). Romney signed on in February of 1999.
It was quite an undertaking. The committee was some $379 million shy of revenue projections with 700 employees to pay and a Winter Olympics to mount. Man, where are you going to come up with $379 million? Romeny could open a barbershop franchise for gays or maybe sell star-maps to offshore tax avoidance havens…naw, not enough time. Then it came to him. He’d flood the halls of congress with lobbyists in search of scads of discretionary taxpayer-funded earmarks for the games. He came away with $382 million.
There were also additional fed funds for security in the wake of the horrific 9/11 attacks, but well over a billion went to the games, themselves. Fellow homophobe and chaser after the republican presidential nomination, Rick Santorum was livid. The flaming heterosexual told a Columbus, Ohio Tea Party crowd that “He (referring to Romney) heroically bailed out the Salt Lake City Olympics by heroically going to Congress and asking them for tens of millions (it was far more) to bail out the Salt Lake City Olympic games, in an earmark.” “Does the word hypocrisy come to mind?”
Before it was all over the 2002 Romney-run Salt Lake City Winter Olympics had sucked up roughly $1.3 BILLION in fed dollars according to the General Accounting Office. More than the government had awarded to all previous U.S. Olympic venues combined. That included some highly questionable expenditures for the owner of Sinclair Oil, Earl Holding. Holding also owned Snowbasin ski resort. Earl sat on the SLOC committee that Romney headed. The committee awarded him $14 million for hosting 3 men’s and 3 women’s ski races. The old boy was worth in the billions at the time and roughly $3.1 billion as of last year. But we’re just getting started. Congress approved a deal that added 1,300 acres of pristine national forest land to his resort. AND…Uncle Sam built him a neat old road from the resort to the Salt Lake City airport. There were other rich-guy raids on the fed money as well, a private little piggy-bank as it were. Did Mitt partake? Almost impossible to tell with his secret accounts around the world.
Many media claimed the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics were fraught with so many sleazy deals that, had all been properly investigated it would have made the original bribery scandal look like a 5-year-old breaking into a cookie jar.
And what did the fabulous leadership of Romney accomplish for Salt Lake City? According to a study by the University of Utah, very little once Michelle Kwan had landed her last triple axel. Sure there were jobs and money pouring in for the duration of the competition and a trust fund has been set aside to preserve some venues. But after that the study was hard pressed to find any positive consequences on a Macroeconomic scale and even during the halcyon days of the competition, the games constituted but a tiny fraction of the state’s economic gains.
Let the record show, however, that Romney was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and took office despite some residency challenges. All that out-state Olympic campaigning can pay dividends.