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3:28 PM PT: Wow, Rec Listed. Thanks! I haven't had a chance to read off of the comments yet. I am at work so I can't be caught browsing political sites. I will be back later to check out everything you guys have been adding to the conversation.

Thank you all again for the support!

Additional thoughts on possible answer amended to bottom of Diary below sources.

Seeing as Mitt Romney is in London playing the part of the Ugly American, and seeing as this has brought some new focus onto Mitt Romney's own tenure as head of the Olympic Games; I find myself asking why Mitt Romney was chosen as CEO of the 2002 Olympic Games in the first place?

In fact this is a question I find myself asking every time someone on TV mentions Romney's role in "saving" the 2002 Winter games from corruption and scandal. No matter how hard I look I cannot find an answer to this question. And I have done some extensive searching. Every article from the era seems to glance right over the question of why Mitt Romney was chosen and instead focuses on the question of how it will benefit him politically.

The Boston Globe covered the story of the 2002 Olympic Games very closely and I will be quoting extensively from the articles they wrote at the time. But even they seemingly failed to answer this basic question.

Here is a little timeline for those who haven't looked into it very much.

For years Salt Lake City had tried to win the hosting spot for the Olympic Games, and failed miserably. Noticing other nations were lobbying the voting members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with gifts like Laptops and Vacation Getaways, the Salt Lake Olympic Committee (SLOC) decides to play the game as well.

In 1995 they finally win their prize. The 2002 Winter Olympics will be hosted in Salt Lake City.

A year earlier Mitt Romney ran unsuccessfully against Ted Kennedy for the Massachusetts Senate Seat, which partly explains The Globes interest in Romney's rising star. Before that election he was a Mormon Bishop and of course worked for Bane Capital to which he would return to work until 1999 {tax record citation needed} at which point he supposedly took a leave of absence and would later retire retroactively!

What we do know is it was in February 1999 that he took the job as the CEO of the Olympic Games.

So what happened in the years between? Well two men named Dave Johnson and Tom Welch were alleged to have bribed members of the IOC with "cash, college tuition, medical-care payments, jobs, lodging, beds and bedding, bathroom fixtures, Indian rugs, draperies, doorknobs, dogs, leather boots and belts, perfume, Nintendo games, Lego toys, shotguns, a violin, and trips to ski resorts, Las Vegas, and a Super Bowl in Miami" in order to win their votes and secure the location of the games. As a result 10 members of the SLOC had to resign including Dave Johnson and Tom Welch.

By the way when the dust had settled, both men were cleared of all 15 felony charges.

Romney went so far as to encourage Welch to accept a plea bargain for the good of the Games, angering those in the community who believed Welch and Johnson had not acted alone and were unfairly targeted. Romney's request looked even worse when a federal judge threw out all 15 felony charges for insufficient evidence and praised Welch and Johnson's contributions to the Games.

''I can only imagine the heartache, the disappointment, the sorrow that you and your loved ones suffered through this terrible ordeal,'' US District Judge David Sam said, according to a court transcript. ''My hope is that you will now be appropriately recognized and honored for your efforts.''

Yet Romney had stigmatized Welch and Johnson, including barring their names from appearing with more than 20,000 other committee staffers and volunteers on a Wall of Honor at the city's Olympic Legacy Plaza.

''Mitt's objective was to look as good as he could,'' Welch said. ''He showed a mean side as well as a competent side.''

The court threw out the charges, but the damage to their reputations had been done, and that was the whole point it seems. The SLOC needed scapegoats so they hung Welch and Johnson out to dry. Welch to this day claims Utah's Governor Mike Leavitt (now the head of Romney's "Transition Team") knew of the gift giving and could have put an end to the whole scandal had he just come out and acknowledged it was a part of the game, instead of playing the victim and pressing charges.

Just as an aside The Boston Globe also reported that David Johnson donated $10,000 dollars to Mitt Romney's Super Pac in 2008, and later pleaded guilty to tax fraud.

More recently, branches of Romney's Commonwealth Political Action Committee accepted $10,000 from a businessman and family friend who pleaded guilty to a tax fraud charge and was one of the two individuals held culpable for wrongdoing in the Olympic scandal.

(Emphasis added)

What is it with Mitt Romney and $10,000 dollars? That number pops up over and over again in every Romney context imaginable. The Globe doesn't name Johnson directly but considering Johnson is a Businessman while Tom Welch is a Lawyer, it's pretty safe to assume that is who they mean. Also Welch's much publicized displeasure with the way Mitt Romney used him as a scapegoat makes it unlikely he donated $10,000 to the guy. Johnson for his part has been oddly silent about the whole affair.

Anyway with the designated "bad apples" out of the way Mitt Romney was drafted to replace them. Why Mitt Romney? We still have no real answer to this question. Did David Johnson rat out Tom Welch in order to get his "family friend" Mitt Romney a high profile job? There is no way to know. But according to another article written in The Boston Globe at the time, it was was Governor Mike Leavitt who tapped Romney.

Romney had decided to gamble his future on the chance to save the 2002 Winter Games. Tapped by Utah's governor to step in as chief executive of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, which had embarrassed itself by lavishing gifts on International Olympics executives in order to get the Games, Romney portrayed his decision as an act of charity.
Another article also written by the Globe at the time goes into a little more detail:

Utah's power brokers believed they needed a new CEO wise in the ways of business, the law, and Mormonism.

They fast settled on Romney, whose ties to the state ran deeper than his ancestral roots. Romney had visited Utah as a child, married his wife, Ann, at the great Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, and attended Brigham Young University in Provo, where two of his sons were enrolled at the time. Ann, struggling with her recently diagnosed multiple sclerosis, was finding some relief in the mountain air of Park City, Utah, where she and Mitt had just built a magnificent vacation home, now assessed at $5.2 million.

''He had high credentials in and out of the church,'' said Garff, a member of one of the church's presiding councils, the Quorums of the Seventy, and a former speaker of the Utah House of Representatives. ''It would have been a disaster if we just picked a stranger and they didn't understand the mores of this community.''

But even this doesn't bridge the gap. It doesn't answer the question. How do you go from Utah Officials to Massachusetts Businessman? And why a businessman with no Olympics experience, and a no real public profile outside of one lost election?

Was it a sort of religious nepotism? Personal favoritism? Was/Is there some connection between Romney and the Utah Political class? While unethical, such a thing would not be illegal, and would hardly be unusual for a state like Utah, where Mormonism is all but the official state religion. Salt Lake Cities streets are numbered according to their distance from the main temple; even the states Beehive Logo is inspired by the Mormon principle of "stewardship," the notion that everything belongs to God, including everything one earns.

Perhaps Romney made a large charitable donation to the Salt Lake City games, or to one of Governor Leavitt's questionable charities?

Leavitt's family charitable foundation, the Dixie and Anne Leavitt Foundation, was established by the Leavitt family in 2000, and the family has donated nearly $9 million of assets to it since. It has provided them with tax write-offs for the donated assets. About a third of the foundation's assets have been loaned back to family businesses, such as a $332,000 loan to Leavitt Land and Investment Inc., in which Mike Leavitt has a substantial interest. According to a 2006 National Public Radio report, these loans were legal because they were made at market rates.[4] A month following the NPR report, Congress made such transactions illegal.

The same NPR report also revealed that nearly $500,000 in charitable contributions provided to the Southern Utah Foundation were used for housing scholarships to Southern Utah University. The scholarships were subsequently used to place students in the Cedar Development Co., a Leavitt family business, with the money used to pay the students' rent. NPR's investigation found that the arrangement was legal and that the Leavitts did not profit from the arrangement. Although legal, the procedure, called "round-tripping" in philanthropic circles, has garnered criticism as lacking in the spirit of philanthropy.

Without Romney's tax returns we will never know. In any case the SLOC hired Mitt Romney to "save" the Olympics and that's exactly what he did... sort of. It appears they weren't really in all that much danger.

While Romney's moves energized the committee, some people familiar with the budget insist his dire forecasts were overstated. A Globe review of archived records showed the organizing committee already had secured commitments of nearly $1 billion in revenues, including $445 million as its share of the NBC contract and nearly $450 million in contracts for sponsorships, before Romney arrived.

In addition, the Utah Legislature already had loaned $59 million in sales tax revenue to the Games and Congress was prepared to provide hundreds of millions in direct support, despite protests from Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona. Direct federal aid for the Games ultimately totaled $382 million.

''In fact, most of the federal money was already in place before Mitt came on,'' said Senator Bob Bennett, a Utah Republican who supports Romney and served as point man for the federal funding. ''The Clinton administration was completely supportive in saying these are America's games, we will do whatever we can to make sure they are successful. The one concern I had was whether we would get the same degree of support from the Bush administration, which we did.''

I don't want to discount Romney's managing skills, but it sounds like he came into a less than perfect situation and purposely made it sound like the place was burning down so that he could heroically put out the fire. His role in the supposed turn around seems over blown to say the least, and stinks of opportunism. Romney of course had his Olympic records destroyed and e-mails deleted when he left so we will never know the exact extent to which the Olympics were in need of saving.

Recently while in London, Romney admitted he had made mistakes during the Salt Lake City Games. He said this in an attempt to save face after his American Borat tour landed him in hot water when he publicly doubted whether British officials were ready for the games.

 “My experience as an Olympic organizer is that there are always a few very small things that end up not going quite right in the first day or so — these get ironed out and then when the Games themselves begin and the athletes take over, all the mistakes of the organizing committee — and I made a few — all of those are overwhelmed by the many things that the athletes carry out and by the spirit of the games.”
This has put a new focus on Romney's time at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. But it was while reading all of this great reporting by the Boston Globe from 1997-2002 that I stumbled upon one telling issue that came up right before the games were to begin.
But he [Romney] angered safety officials when his office denied free or discounted tickets to widows and orphans of firefighters who died at the World Trade Center. Romney's executive assistant, Donna Tillery, twice rejected the requests, citing a policy barring ticket giveaways, according to e-mails she sent to former Salt Lake City firefighter A.J. Barto. Romney's staff says he was unaware of the request.

Six weeks later, the committee found itself with unsold seats and Romney approved distributing 100 tickets valued at $885 each to Utah legislators.

''I was outraged at the hypocrisy,'' Barto said. ''In less than two months, he went from saying we're going to run a tight ship to throwing out free tickets to a group of people who could help him politically.''

So Romney denied attendance to 9/11 Survivors and gave free tickets to Utah Politicians. If that doesn't write it's own attack ad I dunno what does. But to really understand how terrible this was we have to put it into context.

As you know Mitt Romney took over the Olympic Games in 1999 and was well into construction and logistics when the attacks of September 11th happened. In the aftermath of the attacks concerns over security threatened the Olympic Games. A lot of people wanted them to cancel the event, they were worried about a terrorist attack.

CEO Mitt Romney was so personally inspired by President Bush's 9/11 Rubble Speech that he vowed to carry on. As such he staged his own such moment..

Romney gathered hundreds of staffers and volunteers in an outdoor plaza and delivered a speech that several described as the most presidential moment of his Olympic tenure. While he addressed the fears many harbored of terrorists striking again during the Games, Romney invoked the glory of patriotism, public service, and facing down danger.

He delivered a similar message in an e-mail to the staff.

''In the annals of Olympism and the history of Utah, this may stand as one of the defining hours,'' he wrote, according to his book. ''I am confident we will all perform with honor.''

Zianibeth Shattuck-Owen, who served as a trustee and later as a luge manager, said of the speech, ''By the end, he had everybody singing 'God Bless America,' but not in a 'Kumbaya' kind of way. . . It was leadership.''

Romney later successfully lobbied the IOC to drop its opposition to the US team carrying into the opening ceremonies a tattered American flag found in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

So after all the platitudes about patriotism and using the symbolism of 9/11 to rally the troops, he screwed over the 9/11 survivors themselves. Typical Republican attitude. It is also interesting to note that the moment described above, that "Presidential Moment" Romney had with the staff of the Olympics was apparently the first time Romney decided to sing "God Bless America" to an audience.

Apparently all of this horrible singing we have seen during the campaign so far is some weird attempt to relive that moment. Re-spark that sense of leadership somebody apparently once saw in him. To me this makes that Obama Attack Ad even more brilliant.

Now so far this all sounds like classic Mitt Romney. Favoritism, False Patriotism, Scapegoating, Exaggerations, the only thing missing is the classic Mitt Romney flip flop.

The day Mitt Romney took over the scandal-tainted Salt Lake City Olympics in 1999, he pledged not to exploit the role for political gain and announced that he would not accept any severance pay when he finished the job. Public records indicate he did otherwise.

Romney not only accepted a $476,000 severance package from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, according to federal tax records, but he helped to lobby the committee for similarly large pacts for his 25 senior managers, 17 of whom contributed to his 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign or the state Republican Party soon after the Winter Games.

Romney donated the severance package money as well as his Olympic salary to charity, his spokesman says, and Romney himself says that soliciting campaign contributions from friends and colleagues is a common and legitimate practice.


Asked what charities received the money, Fehrnstrom said Romney does not discuss publicly his charitable giving.

Add secretive to that list of adjectives above.

I am disappointed that after reading all of this I still have no real answer as to why Mitt Romney was chosen as CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Why not someone else? Why not someone who managed the Atlanta games? Why not someone from Utah who was already part of the SLOC and could be promoted? Why go all the way across the country and recruit a billionaire businessman from Massachusetts with seemingly no ties whatsoever to the Olympics?

Asking those close to the decision now would be a futile exercise seeing as most of them including Governor Leavitt are now in the Romney for President campaign. There are only two people who might be willing to talk. Ken Bullock, a trustee of the Salt Lake committee and prominent Romney critic who served as a watchdog during Romney's tenure. And of course Tom Welch who was scapegoated as the corrupt bad guy.

Considering more than 70% of the Utah Population is Mormon, and the vast vast majority of the Utah political class is also Mormon, I doubt either of these men would be willing to assist President Obama in sticking it to Romney. No matter how much they may resent the man, these are not likely allies of the President.

My hope is The Boston Globe or someone with more resources than a Google search will follow up on this. Now is the time to do so. The race for the White House seems more or less on hold while the Olympics dominate the airwaves. Now is the perfect time to tie the two stories together and give the American people a clearer picture of Romney's role in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Specifically why was he chosen?

Sources Used:

6:21 PM PT: Back from work and reading your comments. Thanks again for all of the recommends. I want to say that curiosity is all that led me to look into this, I didn't exactly expect to find any foul play or illegal activities, I just find the lack of an actual answer very compelling.

A see a few theories in the comments, most seem to be centering around the idea of Romney being groomed by the Mormon church/GOP for higher office even back then. I suppose anything is possible but I suspect the truth has more to do with the bribes, favors and Romney's own political ambitions.

The way I see it there are 3 very possible (though admittedly unproven) ways this could have come about.

1)The Political Ambitions:

Romney having lost the Mass Senate Race often said he never wanted to run for office again unless he was certain he could win. Perhaps he saw Utah as friendly turf with his religious and education background in the state. The Olympics being hosted would be an easy way to make a splash in already friendly territory.

There is no question Mormonism plays a HUGE (you cannot overstate it) role in Utah state government. With Governor Leavitt already serving his 3rd Term they would need a rising star to replace him. But again why would they reach out to Romney? Was he  simply the highest profile Mormon Politician? There is still no bridge across the Gap of Why, John Huntsman was just as well known in the state and was in the running, why not him? Why Romney?

2) The Quid Pro Quo.

Romney's wealth and connections in addition to his devotion to the church could have easily resulted in business dealings with either the Olympics Committee, The State of Utah and it's politicians, and the Mormon Church itself. Which again were all but officially the same entity.

So did Romney or Bain contribute large sums to Gov. Leavitt's campaigns? Did he contribute directly to the Olympics? Did Bain or one of it's subsidiaries? Was Romney already a money man for the games and was simply put in charge to ensure his investment? Maybe Romney "purchased" his role as CEO that way, or maybe by promising to donate his 1.4 Million Dollar salary/severance to the church.

Worse still is the question of whether Romney or Bain provided any of the gifts that were used to bribe the IOC members. The games already had ample funds but it would be difficult to justify such expenditures unless they had a way of making up the money, or if it had been donated. Super Bowl Tickets aren't cheap. Without Romney's Tax Info we will never know.

3) The one I alluded to in the Diary.

There was a friendship or other personal relationship between Romney and all the right people. Perhaps because of his business ventures, perhaps because of his religious connections. The sort of religious nepotism I described above could have played a major role. Picking people who believe in the same God as you over other perhaps more qualified candidates is not a strictly Mormon phenomenon, but it would still be unethical.

Perhaps no money changed hands, they just knew Mitt was one of the "good ones" and they wanted him because he has a very Ned Flanders quality that would go over well in Utah.

Maybe it's just that simple. Maybe it's a combination of the three. I would sure like to know and I am glad to see other diaries popping up exploring this issue.  

Originally posted to DeanDemocrat on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 06:40 AM PDT.

Also republished by The Bain Files, Progressive Hippie, and Community Spotlight.

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