Government funding, not Mitt Romney, saved the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics:
Mitt Romney did manage to raise money that helped secure Salt Lake as the venue of the 2002 Winter Games. Some of that came from corporate sponsorships, but most of the money came from the US government. (link) And most of the money that was needed was already in place before Romney took over, some $1.5 billion in government support. Both the Utah governor at the time and a US Senator from Utah at the time have confirmed that Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both cooperated to make sure the Winter Games happened.
"Within a couple of days, I flew to Washington and met with President Bush," former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt told Terry Gildea of NPR affiliate KUER. "I said to him, 'I think this is an important moment.' And he ... gave the clear order that we would move forward and that the federal government needed to be as fully engaged in this as possible to ensure that nothing stood in our way."US Senator Bob Bennett:
''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.''
In addition, there was a lot of other money in revenue contracts and support from the state of Utah (link):
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.There is also this:
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.
Indeed, of the half-dozen Olympic officials interviewed for this article, none said that the games would have been a failure if not for Romney's intervention. David Wallechinsky, a commentator for NBC's Olympic coverage and the author of several Olympic reference books, said that Romney played an important role in budget and PR matters. But beyond that, "his involvement is greatly exaggerated."One Olympic official hinted that there might need to be a change of venue, but he does not seem to have been taken seriously at the time (link):
"A lot of people could have stepped in and made it work," he told The Huffington Post. "Not to say he did anything wrong. He did what he had to do. What he did was fine. The way he portrays it, however, is absurd ... The Olympic movement had survived two world wars, a terrorist attack, and boycotts. It could have survived a bribery scandal."
Concern over Salt Lake City's financial position today prompted Marc Hodler, the finance chief of the I.O.C., to state that he thought it possible the city could still lose the 2002 Games. ''I am convinced that Salt Lake City will host the Games,'' Hodler said in Vienna. ''However, it has had a $350 million hole in its budget for months.''Interestingly, Romney, who in recent months has been de-emphasizing the role of government in helping businesses function and survive, did use his success at getting government support as one of his qualifications when he was running for governor in Massachusetts:
He suggested that Lillehammer, Norway, the 1994 host city, or Nagano, Japan (1998), could be used as a replacement site. Other Olympic officials have discounted concerns about Salt Lake City's ultimate ability to stage the Games.
So much of the success of the 2002 Olympics depended on government support that some campaign videos have actually been made emphasizing that fact:
Romney lost his cool.
There was one incident that really calls into question whether he is level-headed enough to be president:
Romney found himself stuck in a huge traffic backup on the road to the men’s downhill ski area, because some buses had not received the proper security-clearance placards and were being prevented from proceeding. Romney, who had organized the Salt Lake Olympics, jumped out to take charge. He started directing traffic, over the objections of a sheriff’s deputy, Kodi Taggart; she later filed a report on Romney’s interference. And he lit into an 18-year-old volunteering as a security officer, Shaun Knopp. Knopp told reporters that Romney had asked “who the fuck” he was and “what the fuck” he was doing and had then told him, “We got the Olympics going on, and we don’t need this shit going on.” Romney denied this at the time, saying he had not used such language since high school. “I would not, have not, and never would use the f-word,” he said. The worst word he used with Knopp, he said, was “H-E double hockey sticks.”
In the days after the incident, the state’s top law enforcement official decided against an investigation. But the officer in charge of security at the downhill site, Weber County Sheriff’s Office Captain Terry Shaw, said a police sergeant from Colorado working under his command had corroborated Knopp’s account, and Shaw demanded an apology from Romney.
This incident did have broader implications, including the effect on relations with those in public safety positions:
Police were angered that Romney denied shouting the expletive and were further miffed when Romney later offered a partial apology to a sheriff's captain but not to Knopp.While it is a bit disconcerting, that event might be ignored if not for the fact that it serves as a backdrop to Romney's clashes with others while at Salt Lake, times when he seemed more menacing, and times that bring to memory previous stories like his attack of a fellow student.
''There were a lot of people in public safety who were extremely angry,'' said Peter Dawson, a lawyer today who served as an intern in a communications center at the time. ''The general consensus was, 'I hope he doesn't need any help from us because we aren't going to respond very quickly.'.''
Romney tolerated little dissent from trustees who aggressively questioned his decisions. While his many admirers in Salt Lake City viewed him as pristine, amiable, and self-effacing, he developed an alternate image among a group of dissenters: petty, vindictive, and self-aggrandizing.More incidents of top-blowing by Romney, including a 1981 arrest, from Yahoo News.
His chief foe was Ken Bullock - no relation to Romney's friend and COO Fraser Bullock. Ken Bullock served on the organizing committee and also was executive director of the Utah League of Cities and Towns.
Garff, the organizing committee chairman whose association with Romney went back to childhood, believed Romney inappropriately tried to silence Bullock.
''Mitt saw him as an agitator,'' Garff said, ''and I saw him as a watchdog who needed to be heard.''
Romney showed little sympathy for another trustee who criticized his performance. When Lillian Taylor, a small-business consultant, questioned why the committee continued to retain a pricey law firm that had acknowledged losing documents related to the scandal, Romney, who at the time said he had no problem with her raising the issue, sat silently while the board's attorney aggressively dismissed her complaint.
Romney probably breached his contract:
First, there has to be an understanding of the historical context. Before Mitt Romney became involved, there was a huge scandal that involved members of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee (SLOC). When Romney was asked to come to Salt Lake, decisions had already been made to institute a new conflict-of-interest policy and an open records policy (an effort at transparency) for the SLOC board (link):
As the Salt Lake Organizing Committee undertook sweeping reforms, including new conflict of interest rules, three of its leading members resigned.Another quote from the time here:
SLOC also adopted an open meetings and records policy and that SLOC members be required to attend 75 percent of meetings.
Tougher new conflict of interest rules also require any board member whose financial dealings with the committee could result in ''substantial personal benefit'' to leave the committee.Incidentally, after those new transparency rules were put into place, Romney spoke of this transparency when taking over as CEO of the Olympics, but did not live up to his promises:
A recent quote describing what is available is here:
[M}anuscript archivist Elizabeth Rogers said anyone looking for dirt on Romney will be disappointed. Rogers said the files, set aside for years for higher priority projects until the 2012 election heated up, focus on the nuts and bolts of putting on an Olympics.Now that the context has been given, we can better understand the importance that the new CEO be ethical and that he not benefit personally from business dealings made while he was CEO of the Olympics. Here is a statement about that need:
``This is to raise our standard to the highest possible standard,'' said Leavitt, who gave any board member with a perceived conflict of interest 60 days to resign.AP news items from the time, written by Kristen Moulton, also include specific details about ethics and anti-scandal restrictions placed on the new CEO, Mitt Romney. He would have to sever ties with all corporations that did business with the Olympics. This same AP piece is found in the archives of the Laredo Morning Times and the Hurriyet Daily News:
Romney's selection as president of SLOC will help move the Olympics' focus from ``money and materialism back to its roots of athletes and altruism,'' Leavitt said.
"Our job is to go to work for the athletes." Romney pledged to spend no more money than the games take in, to spare taxpayers, to protect the environment and to take no salary until the Olympics are over and profitable. When he is paid, it will be $285,000 per year - the same rate as his predecessor, Frank Joklik, who resigned Jan. 8. Joklik claimed to know nothing about the excesses of bid executives while he served as chairman of the committee. He will remain on SLOC's board of trustees. Romney will have to sever ties with any companies that do business with the games. Bain Capital has ownership stakes in many companies and Romney serves on various boards of directors.
There will no doubt be those who question the validity of this quote. Since it does play an important part in the argument I am making, I have provided a screenshot of the important parts of the webpage. Notice the web address, which indicates it is actually from the Laredo Morning Times main news archive. Notice also that it is a legitimate Associated Press story, one that was evidently picked up by multiple newspapers at the time. Finally, notice the name and location of the author: Kristen Moulton, Salt Lake City. Other AP stories with this same by-line and roughly the same timeperiod are here and here. It is a legitimate AP story from February 1999, recorded in the Laredo Morning Times archive, from an AP writer who was writing at the time.
Since Romney used his Bain rolodex to fill out his list of corporate sponsorships for the games, if he was still at Bain, given the above-mentioned restrictions from the Moulton article, this seems problematic. Here is an example of discussions about his use of that rolodex:
One story told by Romney himself suggests his methods. In Turnaround, his 2004 book about his Olympics experience, Romney tells of the deal he offered to his friend Thomas Stemberg, founder and then-CEO of Staples, for that company’s sponsorship: his Olympics staff “would get to work lobbying SLOC board members and other corporate contacts to switch their office-supply contracts to Staples.”I will leave discussion of whether Romney was still at Bain Capital to others, namely Rachel Maddow:
Utah billionaire Jon M. Huntsman ponied up a cool million dollars to the Olympics — and in July 2001, Bain Capital invested roughly a quarter-billion dollars in Huntsman’s international-holdings company. Huntsman is now a national finance co-chair for Romney’s presidential campaign.
Gateway, too, signed on as a sponsor; in September 2001, it made an agreement for unpaid consulting services from Bain Capital, in exchange for certain underwriting opportunities.
Others of the final tally of 53 corporate sponsors were already under Romney and Bain Capital’s influence. Marriott is led by close family friends — now campaign finance co-chairs; plus, Romney was sitting on the company’s board at the time. Sealy, which Bain Capital owned, became a sponsor. So did Monster.com, where one of Romney’s sons worked as a consultant. The vice-chair of General Motors was on Marriott’s board of directors with Romney, as were the directors of Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Sears; all became sponsors. Many other sponsors had extensive business dealings with Bain Capital companies, or had top-ranking executives with past connections to Bain Capital companies. And most of them have come through for Romney again, by donating to his campaign.
But, even if Mitt Romney were no longer at Bain, there are companies that he sat on the board of, and/or benefitted from financially, while they were doing business with the Olympics. Staples and Marriot both listed Romney as being on their board of directors. Romney also negotiated for Domino's Pizza, coincidentally also owned by Bain, to get a catering contract. Romney also owned stock in Mattel. As documented here, Romney managed to get shares of Mattel and then negotiated an Olympics deal for them.
Romney did business with all of these companies and vis a vis his position as partial owner and/or a member of their boards of directors, stood to make money from the deals that were made. Besides being unethical, there seems to be no universe in which these activities would not violate the specific aforementioned agreement that Romney would sever his ties to corporations that did business with the Olympics. These activities seem to plainly be a breach of contract by Mitt Romney.
Romney profiteered as CEO of the Olympics
There seems to have been a lot of profiteering at the Salt Lake Olympics. Sports Illustrated did a major story called Snow Job documenting much of the graft and profiteering that took place. A recent Mother Jones piece referred to it as Mitt Romney's Pork Barrel Olympics. Senator John McCain also thought a lot of unnecessary pork-barrel spending took place:
The Mattel story has a lot of disturbing overtones about profiteering. Romney was on the board of The Learning Company. He seems to have used this to gain an ownership stake in Mattel when Mattel bought TLC. Romney negotiated a contract for Mattel with the Olympics. Romney seems to have not informed Mattel that TLC was in financial difficulty before it was bought by Mattel:
Romney may have parlayed a $23m investment and seat on the board of troubled software firm The Learning Company (TLC) into an ownership stake in Mattel, Inc. worth as much as $100,000,000 as of June, 1999.This story seems similar to other Bain-related stories: Ownership/control is acquired and is used to extract money from the business, which may then be loaded down with debt:
On September 25 of that year, Romney, in his role as CEO of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Organizing Committee, stood before the world to announce that the SLOC had signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Mattel for the production of stuffed-animal representations of the Olympic mascots.
Romney made no mention of his personal ownership interest in Mattel. Less than two weeks later, Mattel made a bombshell announcement.
On October 4 Mattel disclosed that The Learning Company had incurred millions in product returns and bad debt write-offs and that the TLC division of Mattel would incur a $50-$100 million loss rather than the large profit that had been forecast previously.
Mattel, whose stock had traded as high as $27.23 when the TLC merger was completed, at $24.14 on June 25 (the date upon which Romney's ownership is documented and worth estimated), closed at $11.69 on October 4.
In four of the seven Bain-owned companies that went bankrupt, Bain investors also profited, amassing more than $400 million in gains before the companies ran aground, The Times found. All four, however, later became mired in debt incurred, at least in part, to repay Bain investors or to carry out a Bain-led acquisition strategy.Besides the graft documented by Sports Illustrated, and the purely financial profiteering, there is another kind of opportunism that took place. There is no doubt that Mitt Romney hoped that he could use the Salt Lake Olympics to build some sort of reputation that would reinvigorate his political future:
But standing in D'Alessandro's office on the 59th floor of the Hancock Tower, with miles of Massachusetts sprawling beneath him, Romney offered a more personal reason for taking on the Olympic challenge. Having been defeated in his Senate race against Senator Edward M. Kennedy in 1994, Romney knew his political future hung on the fate of the Games.So, in addition to the financial profiteering, like trying to get contracts for Staples, and the unethical profiteering from Mattel stocks during this time, Romney was also doing a lot of political profiteering. As noted by David Bernstein in his 2007 piece on Mitt's Equity Army, a lot of the same entities that donated to the 2002 Olympics were sponsors of Romney's previous political campaigns. This may be simply that they like Mitt Romney. But, since we do not have, and will not have, records of the deals that were done during the Olympics, one must ask if this later political support was not some sort of quid pro quo that was agreed to by these Olympics sponsors. There is no doubt that Romney somehow benefitted from the relationships.
''If this doesn't work, I can come back to private life, but I won't be anything anymore in public life,'' he confided, according to D'Alessandro.
Others from Utah later worked for Romney:
Marriott International, the hotel chain with deep Utah and Mormon roots, signed on as a sponsor, as did Nu Skin, a skin-care company. Those ties later proved valuable to Mr. Romney; executives at both companies have contributed to his 2008 campaign. So have businessmen who benefited from Olympic projects, like Earl Holding, a former member of the Olympic Committee board and owner of a ski resort where some events were held.But perhaps the most disturbing money connections are to two of the individuals, Sead Dizdarevic and David Simmons, involved in the original scandals in Salt Lake before Romney became CEO of the SLOC:
Last month, The Daily Beast recounted the tale of one circle of Romney donors tied to a tainted Olympic contractor who has given more than a million dollars in campaign donations. After being granted immunity by prosecutors, the contractor, Sead Dizdarevic, admitted making $131,000 in cash payments to Romney’s predecessors. The cash was used, at least in part, to subsidize the IOC gifts. Yet it was Romney, not his indicted predecessors, who awarded Dizdarevic the hospitality deal that’s made him the ticket king of the Olympics to this day.Dizdarevic was making what the government thought were improper payments long after Romney took over, though Romney's idea was to say that the SLOC was the victim. The lawyer questioning Dizdarevic had this exchange, which is damning to Romney:
But Dizdarevic is hardly the only Romney donor with disturbing Olympic ties. David Simmons also testified in the 2003 federal trial of Romney’s predecessors, in a case that was ultimately dismissed. But unlike Dizdarevic, Simmons pleaded guilty to a federal tax misdemeanor as part of a cooperation agreement that allowed him to avoid a multi-count felony indictment.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the guilty plea was connected to Simmons giving a fake job to John Kim, the son of a critical IOC member, to qualify him for a sham visa, and then submitting fraudulent tax and immigration filings to cover up the alleged conspiracy.
Since that time, Simmons and his family have given more than $317,000 to Romney and affiliated campaigns, and business associates of the family have added nearly $160,000 more. Simmons and his wife, Melinda, donated $32,100 themselves, going back to 2006.
“Okay. And you have made $7 million from your work for the alleged victim in this case? … With the cooperation of the alleged victim?”Romney's number 2 man in Utah was Fraser Bullock. Bullock’s own contributions, plus those of his family and corporate connections, to Romney's campaigns total $778,172. Fraser became sole minority investor in Dizdarevic's company.
“With the help of the organizing committee.”
It doesn't take long to figure out that, rather than avoiding these supposed pariahs who brought shame to the Olympics, Romney was actually working with them all along... behind the scenes.
Lots more profiteering and questionable interaction discussed here.
The implications of this part of Romney's Olympic experience are very important. Rather than saving the US economy by using his expertise, a President Romney would be far more likely to use the position to personally profiteer, similar to Dick Cheney and Karl Rove More on Rove here.
Not good. Not good at all.