Political Animal


November 18, 2011 10:00 AM Those elusive Romney hard drives

By Steve Benen

Shortly before Mitt Romney departed the governor’s office, 11 of his top aides purchased 17 state-issued hard drives, purging the Romney administration’s email records in advance of his presidential campaign. In retrospect, the move seems rather odd, especially for a Republican candidate who likes to talk about transparency.

Maybe this was a standard practice for modern Massachusetts governors? Apparently not.

Top aides to the three Massachusetts governors who preceded Mitt Romney - all of them Republicans - said yesterday they know of no instance when state employees purchased their computer hard drive as they left the administration, as 11 of Romney’s aides did in 2006 as he was laying the groundwork for his first presidential campaign.

The aides from the administrations of William F. Weld, Paul Cellucci, and Jane Swift all said they were not aware of such purchases being made previously.

“I don’t remember anybody buying their hard drives. I don’t remember anybody buying anything,” said Stephen P. Crosby, who worked for Romney’s two predecessors and handled the transition between Jane Swift’s outgoing administration and Romney’s incoming one, and who was also co-chairman of Governor Deval Patrick’s budget and finance transition team. “I can’t even remember anybody discussing it. It certainly wasn’t [standard operating procedure] in any way. That’s almost unthinkable. It seems inherently a bad idea. You almost think you’d want to have a record of everything going on for the public.”

Yes, you would almost think that, wouldn’t you.

I’m trying to imagine how to give Romney and his team the benefit of the doubt. I can imagine, for example, someone working in a government office for several years and growing attached to, say, a desk chair. Maybe the chair offered great back support, was really comfortable, and was just the right height, and as the governor’s term was wrapping up, that person may have offered to pay to take that chair home. That seems vaguely plausible.

But Romney would have us believe his entire team grew attached to 17 hard drives — not the computer, not the monitor, not the keyboard, just the hard drive. This allowed them to eliminate untold thousands of email messages — a move with no precedent. What’s more, Romney’s team insists the officials “complied with the law,” but can’t explain why the purchases were made in the first place.

In an apparent attempt at ironic humor, Romney’s team also issued a memo yesterday attacking the Obama White House for having “turned its back on his campaign promises of openness and transparency.”

Nice timing, gang.

The DNC’s Brad Woodhouse joked this morning, “Just imagine if Richard Nixon had been able to buy the White House taping system and walk out with it.”

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • pacato on November 18, 2011 10:14 AM:

    Ancient Chinese wisdom from the Shih Ching: as is the hidden, so is the pattern

  • Mudge on November 18, 2011 10:18 AM:

    I'm sure Pat Buchanan (and others) truly regret that Nixon couldn't, or didn't, buy the taping system.

  • Kiweagle on November 18, 2011 10:35 AM:

    I think a little more historical context is in order:
    1. Have we already forgotten those minutes conveniently erased from a taped discussion Nixon was having with his Chief of Staff as well as the memories of those who participated?
    2. E-mails were not only deleted, but staff were actively encouraged to set up and use personal e-mail for correspondence (typically through the RNC) and the mandated back-up mail server wasn't put in place so that any records of internal correspondence wouldn't be maintained.
    3. And finally, when busted for number 2 (no pun intended), Bush not only attempted to use executive privilege to hide the communications, but Cheney even went so far as to claim that his office wasn't part of the Executive Branch.

    And yes, that really happened.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on November 18, 2011 10:36 AM:

    It's absolutely incredible how bad the Republican field is this year. (Yeah, i get some of the reasons why.) I still think Mitt will stumble across the finish line in the primaries, and i'm not totally reassured about the general, but.... wow. If ever an incumbent president were to buck the economic trend, this would seem to be the year.

  • c u n d gulag on November 18, 2011 10:42 AM:

    This is like saying, 'I loved my car so much, I took out the odometer before I sold it.'

    Obama is one of the luckiest people ever when it comes to opponents. Outside of that one loss, and outside of Hillary, here's who he's had opposing him - Alan Keyes, McCain/Palin, and now whoever he will face next year.

    Not to say Obama can't lose in 2012, but can you imagine if the Republicans had at least one half-capable, or half-sane candidate?
    It would be a blow-out.

  • burro on November 18, 2011 10:44 AM:

    This is something I do. I wipe hard drives contained in PC's that have reached their end of life in county departments.

    Information that needs to be saved and carried forward is transferred to the users new machine, and once that is accomplished, the old hard drives are wiped. I've done thousands. In no instance, would it have been acceptable, or approved, for an employee at any level to have walked off with county property, much less county property that had gov't related information stored on it. There would be hell to pay.

    The request, or demand, to leave with those items would instantly raise red flags and scrutiny of why the idea would even be broached.

    Whether there was interesting info on M.R.s HD's or not, the concept of him and his group leaving with them, for whatever sum of money, is bogus to the core.

  • berttheclock on November 18, 2011 10:48 AM:

    Didn't Mitt say, "Well, if it was good enough for Calvin Coolidge, then.........."

  • Trollop on November 18, 2011 10:51 AM:

    Maybe Mitt had pictures of himself (or his ego) on the intranets, or maybe there was footage of a purported issue-triple-back-flip.. Perhaps he's not an honest politician; he subscribes to Mormonism which is at it's roots entirely dishonest, of course I'm not supposed to say that socially.

  • zoobadger on November 18, 2011 10:56 AM:

    System admins in even small businesses log and save every message sent or received. So even if the users erase their mailboxes or delete messages they're still recoverable. So Romney's computer illiterate in addition to being potentially dishonest.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on November 18, 2011 10:58 AM:

    As burro above I too work for a city . We fired an IT director for using a military scrub to remove files and emails implicating him in an internal investigation. We now have a system separate from the others that just archive emails.
    The type of activity that Mittens and his crew pursued would get you arrested in Florida. We have very strict sunshine laws here.

  • snoey on November 18, 2011 11:01 AM:

    Not that stupid, just evil - per the Globe they also wiped at least one server.

  • fignaz on November 18, 2011 11:08 AM:

    This was discussed this morning on Boston NPR station WBUR. The station has a recurring feature where two local political consultants review national & state political news. Dan Payne is a Democrat; Todd Domke a Republican. Needless to say, Willard's candidacy often generates some comments. Here's Domke's take on all the hard drive hoo-ha: "Fortunately for Mitt Romney his administration was pretty forgettable so I think this will remain a local issue." You can listen to a clip of today's segment at the link below. The discussion of hard drive doings begins around 4:15 with Domke's comment closing out the clip.


  • Steven on November 18, 2011 11:30 AM:

    Has the concept of remote, automatic, enterprise wide backup been scrubbed from the IT lexicon and existence? How in heavens name, could many government computers that are used for government purposes, not be remotely and multiply backed. GFG, I have personal backups from the last century that I can easily access. And I'm a flipping individual. I think we be seeing some crime in Mitten's case; maybe felonies.

  • Schtick on November 18, 2011 11:38 AM:

    I'm thinking some criminal shit here, but even if someone were to ask Romney and his homies about all this, being they ARE tealiban, their answer would probably be: "I can't recall". "cough"cough"

    crapcha....scouts Trallyse....scouts?

  • square1 on November 18, 2011 12:07 PM:

    Democrats. Took them 5 years to figure this out? Losers.

    “Just imagine if Richard Nixon had been able to buy the White House taping system and walk out with it.”

    No. Imagine if Nixon had walked out with the taping system then Democrats took until the 80's to debate whether this was a violation of the letter "or just the spirit" of the law.

  • Cha on November 18, 2011 1:25 PM:

    @ square1

    No, you're the LOSER..always looking for the road to blame Democrats. What a freaking LOSER.

  • Josef K on November 18, 2011 1:43 PM:

    I'm still waiting to hear how this activity doesn't break Public Records statutes that govern the Commonwealth.

    Can anyone explain how this doesn't qualify as overt criminal behavior?

  • bluesguy on November 18, 2011 3:17 PM:

    Even if they their drives and wiped the server. WHAT ABOUT THE BACKUPS THAT MUST HAVE BEEN (regularly) DONE??

  • Josef K on November 18, 2011 3:35 PM:

    From bluesguy at 3:17 PM:

    Even if they their drives and wiped the server. WHAT ABOUT THE BACKUPS THAT MUST HAVE BEEN (regularly) DONE??

    That may well be the only thing saving their collective necks as it would (presumably) statisfy Commonwealth statutes.

    But if those back-ups have mysteriously vanished as well?

    I'd have never mistaken Romney for a modern Nixon; he honestly never seemed bright enough.

  • Ken on November 18, 2011 4:35 PM:

    This may be one of the few cases where they would want one of the staffers to admit to downloading porn. It'd be a cover story and distract the press nicely.

    @schtick: Captcha is crowdsourcing text-recognition. One of the two words you see is from a scan that the OCR didn't recognize. Mine is "political," funnily enough.

  • Crissa on November 18, 2011 7:38 PM:

    What do you mean, took five years to figure this out?

    A) Investigations take time.

    B) Most people in the US aren't from Massachusetts.

    Remember, IOKIYAAR: so news doesn't make a big deal about Republican crimes; heck, it's considered attacking them to merely quote a Republican honestly. So why would we, as the majority who don't like in MA, know much about prior fishy behavior of an outgoing governor until that governor tries to campaign again?

  • rbllevy on November 18, 2011 9:13 PM:

    The only thing that's transparent here is Romney's attempt at a cover up.

  • Paul on November 20, 2011 8:57 AM:

    Again, the ostentatious right has brought conniving to an advanced level with the confirmed hypothesis "the public has been dumb ed down enough" and we WILL get away with it. The subject matter is intricately discussed with a convoluted spin to the point of head scratching, "Oh Well!". Finally, the conclusive inevitability, the impervious connivers remain unscathed for the suspicious infraction conducted with only journalistic opinions to dissuade. VIVA la propaganda machine.