On the campaign trail, Republican candidate Mitt Romney often touts his stewardship of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Utah, which he took over following a massive bribery scandal. In a series of new articles, longtime investigative reporter Wayne Barrett reveals Romney may have violated the new ethics rules he put in place. Today, Romney continues to accept campaign contributions from many key figures tied to the bribery scandal. Barrett, a Newsweek/Daily Beast contributor and a fellow at The Nation Institute, joins us to discuss his findings. [...]
AMY GOODMAN: Great to have you with us. So, tell us, who are Mitt Romney’s friends, and how do they relate to the Olympics, which is one of the few things on his résumé that he is really touting as his—to show why he would be qualified to be president?
WAYNE BARRETT: When your producer called me yesterday, I said, "Well, with all the gaffes, I think he’s going to give up even this part of his résumé." There are three pillars. He’s given up Massachusetts. Bain has been taken away from him. So the last thing on the résumé is the Salt Lake Olympics. And I thought he embarrassed himself. He got a gold for gaffes in London, and he embarrassed himself so badly, I didn’t think he’d be stressing this. And voilà, a few hours after I talked with your producer, they put up this ad. So, he’s got—he’s got a very weakened résumé.
And let’s give him full credit for what happened in Salt Lake. I think he was a managerial success. I think he overstates what he achieved there, but I think he was a managerial success. The problem is that he was brought in because of the worst Olympic scandal in history, and he befriended and awarded contracts to people deeply involved in the scandal that caused him to be recruited to this rescue operation. And he’s still collecting money from them.
I’ve written about three different characters, one of whom pled guilty in the Olympic scandal; one of whom took the Fifth Amendment in the grand jury and was immunized and testified at a criminal trial that he had made $131,000 in cash payoffs to Mitt Romney’s predecessor, the prior CEO of the Olympic Games; and the third of which was the most recent story, Kem Gardner.
Kem Gardner is Mitt Romney’s closest friend in Salt Lake. He’s a very powerful leader in Salt Lake. They met when they both ran the Mormon stake in Boston years earlier. And Kem Gardner, who was an incorporator of the committee that ran the Salt Lake Games, recruited Mitt for this job. He offered it to him in an initial conversation with Ann Romney, and he got him this job down in Salt Lake. And he is his—Mitt Romney’s son, Josh, until last year, was working for Kem Gardner. He’s extraordinarily close to the family.
And what Mitt Romney did that I think violated the very ethic rules that he introduced in July of 1999, shortly after he took office, which was that you had to disclose any relationship with anybody who was doing business with the committee. He went before the board of trustees on 24 hours’ notice and urged that they select the Gateway shopping mall project of Kem Gardner as the location for the only legacy plaza, only legacy facility that was ever built. And that’s really—whenever Mitt Romney goes back to Salt Lake—he just did it this year in February for the 10th anniversary—the events are held at Gateway Plaza, where his friend Kem Gardner runs this gigantic shopping mall. Kem Gardner got a $4.7 million tax break for putting up this legacy plaza. And it’s really—he did not disclose his relationship. It was approved in violation of the regulations that he introduced. And it’s been an enormous benefit to Gardner’s project to have this destination at his shopping mall.
You can read the entire transcript at the link above and here's more on Barrett's reporting:
- “‘I Couldn’t Love Him More’: How Romney Steered a Key Olympic Project to a Friend.” By Wayne Barrett (Mother Jones, July 2012)
- “Romney’s Shady Connections From Salt Lake Olympics Still Paying Off.” By Wayne Barrett. (Newsweek/The Daily Beast, May 14, 2012
- “Romney Saved Salt Lake Olympics From Scandal, But at What Price?” By Wayne Barrett. (Newsweek/The Daily Beast, April 12, 2012)
- “Did Mitt Romney Help Lake Michigan’s Polluters?” By Wayne Barrett. (Newsweek/The Daily Beast, July 29, 2012)