Shady, but not illegal. In fact, not only was it not illegal to replace the computers, it’s hard to believe they were trying to cover up any illegal activity by doing it. One of the singular quirks of Romney’s personality is that he somehow manages to seem squeaky clean and suspicious at the same time. He won’t steal and he won’t cheat, but he’ll tell you anything you want to hear to get ahead politically. I’d trust him with my life — but I wouldn’t trust him to reform entitlements. Nuance.
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…
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 removal of digital records by Romney’s staff, first reported by the Boston Globe, has sparked a wave of requests for state officials to release paper records from Romney’s governorship that remain in the state’s archives.
The $97,000 figure in the headline represents the difference between the lease on the computers that the staff had used, which still had 18 months on it when Romney left office, and the lease for the replacement computers, which they signed near the end for … no apparent reason. My assumption is that Mitt was already thinking of a presidential run and wanted to make sure to whatever legal extent possible that no communications during his time as governor — especially ones that might magnify his flip-flop on abortion — would come back to haunt him. The alternative, that they were trying to destroy evidence of an impropriety, is almost inconceivable to me. Frankly, I think voters might handle that better than a treasure trove of “damn, mandates are awesome” e-mails. Alas, my friends, we’ll never know.
Via the Corner, here’s Romney in 2004 talking about how to attack John Kerry for, er, flip-flopping. Exit question: Why is this guy so curiously media-shy? He knows his stuff on policy so he doesn’t have to worry about any Cain-esque stumbles, and reporters are going to chatter about his penchant for reversing his positions whether or not he’s sitting there with them to respond. He gains little by ducking them except grumbly stories like this. What gives?
Update: A commenter notes a point that might be unclear from the excerpt: Romney’s staff used taxpayer funds to do this, not personal funds. (They wouldn’t pay off a new lease for gubernatorial staff computers with personal funds, of course.) Does that make it more or less suspicious?