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Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Denver, Colorado September 23, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Remember how Mitt Romney, successful businessman, was running for president because he knew how to whip troubled businesses and Olympics and such into shape, cut waste, instill fiscal responsibility? His campaign is about to get a bunch of complaints from news outlets that had reporters embedded on the campaign and are upset about being billed ridiculously inflated amounts for travel and food.

What happens is, campaigns set up travel and food for reporters covering them, and the reporters' news outlets are billed for the resulting expenses. That's standard. What's not standard are the amounts the Romney campaign is billing:

For example, on Oct. 11, each reporter was charged $812 for a meal and a rented "holding" space, where the press waited before moving to the next event. On Oct. 18, the bill for a similar set of expenses was $461. And on the night of the vice presidential debate, the campaign planned a "viewing party" for the reporters with Romney, complete with a large rented room with a patio, massage tables, fresh cut flowers, and lots of food and booze. One campaign aide told BuzzFeed that campaign officials' orders were to "go big"—a nice gesture, perhaps, but one that wasn't discussed with every media outlet.

The tab for the party: $745 per reporter.

My God, those reporters were being treated almost as well as Rafalca.

The details of that party almost make it look like a little bit of bribery—hey, reporters, check out this fantastic party we're throwing you (that your employers are paying for). Isn't that massage nice? Doesn't it make you like Mitt Romney? But in fact, the leading theory is incompetence:

One campaign aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the bills were not artificially inflated, but rather the product of a generally mismanaged campaign. The aide said the advance team—which was tasked with arranging meals and accommodations for the press—failed to communicate with other elements of the campaign, and consistently spent more money than necessary.

Indeed, reporters on the trail grew accustomed to having five or six catered meals offered to them every day, with long tables full of food awaiting them at each campaign stop. The meals often went untouched, and were sometimes consumed by campaign staff. It remains unclear whether those aides shouldered some of the costs of the meals.

Complaints early on in the routine of massively over-billing news outlets weren't acted on by the senior campaign officials who received them. And now, more than a month after Romney lost badly, whatever's left of his campaign is going to have to deal with requests to have every single charge over $200 explained in detail. That, my friends, is the campaign of Mitt Romney, turnaround expert, cost-cutter, efficient businessman.

Please, Republicans, tell me more about how we need an MBA president, a successful businessman to cute waste and manage government efficiently.

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