Romney paid $100,000 to purge computer records, report says

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waves after speaking at the Defending the American Dream Summit, Friday, Nov. 4, 2011, in Washington.
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

White House hopeful Mitt Romney spent nearly $100,000 of taxpayer's money to replace staff computers when he left office as governor of Massachusetts, the news agency Reuters reported Tuesday, reprising questions about whether records of his tenure were properly preserved.

The amount spent was well above levels reported earlier by the Boston Globe, which published a story last month saying that 11 Romney administration officials bought 17 hard drives from the governor's office, paying $65 for each one, and that the Romney administration's e-mails were all wiped from a server.

At the time, Romney said his aides followed the letter of the law and handled the records properly. Asked about the Reuters report, Romney spokesman Andrea Saul said "Governor Romney followed precedent in the handling of documents in his office and there was nothing unusual about it. He voluntarily transferred 700 boxes of documents to the state archives, more than any prior governor."

The fact-checking website Politifact conducted its own review of the issues raised by the initial Globe story and concluded, "the Romney administration's decision to erase most electronic files is neither illegal nor unusual."

"According to state records officials, past governors such as (William) Weld, (Paul) Cellucci and (Jane) Swift have not made their electronic records available to the state archive or to the incoming administration, according to state staff. They have submitted some computer print-outs to the state archive, but Romney did that, as well. So we rate Romney's claim, true," Politifact said.

It is unclear whether or not computers or hard drives that Romney himself used were among those purged.

Romney himself has he "followed not only the law, but in Massachusetts, the precedent of prior governors and legislators."

"I don't think there has ever been an administration that says, let's give you our computer files and emails," Romney said last month on the campaign trail in New Hampshire after the Globe story was published.

Theresa Dolan, who served as director of administration for six governors, including Romney, between 1985 and 2008, told Reuters that Romney's efforts to control or wipe out records from his governorship were unprecedented.

"No one had ever inquired about, or expressed the desire" to purchase their computer hard drives before Romney's tenure, Dolan told the news agency for the story published Tuesday.

In November, however, Dolan told Politifact deleting files was "routine."

"Computers to the best of my recollection would be re-imaged and old files deleted between administrations. ... You wouldn't just start up your computer and find files waiting there," she said last month.

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