During an appearance in Manchester, New Hampshire on Friday, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney appeared reluctant to explain why his former aides had destroyed emails from his term as Massachusetts governor just before he left office in January 2007.
Massachusetts state officials report that as Romney’s term was ending, all of his administration’s emails were wiped from the servers. At the same time, eleven of his top aides purchased their computer hard drives for $65 each, and the remaining computers in the governor’s office were wiped clean as well.
Romney insists that his staff “all followed the law exactly as it’s written” and that his administration sent “700 boxes of information to the archives that weren’t even required.” According to the current Democratic Secretary of State, however, emails are no different from paper records and should have been forwarded to the archives.
Aides to the three Massachusetts governors who preceded Romney could not recall any similar purchases during their own administrations.
“I don’t remember anybody buying their hard drives. I don’t remember anybody buying anything,’’ one stated. “That’s almost unthinkable. It seems inherently a bad idea. You almost think you’d want to have a record of everything going on for the public.’’
A Romney spokesperson says the sale was legal. However, experts on Massachusetts law consulted by CNN indicated that even though the governor is not subject to freedom of information requests, electronic records are public property and should have been preserved for the archives.
Romney is now alleging that the entire controversy was cooked up between current Democratic Governor Patrick and an Obama campaign which will “say and do anything to hold onto their power.” He has demanded that Patrick turn over all emails between his own staff and Obama’s top political aides.
In return, the Democratic National Committee has filed a request for all emails from the Romney administration that either refer to the purchase of hard drives or contain such potentially embarrassing terms as “destroy records” and “flip-flop.”
As the spat escalated on Friday, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz pointed out that “Mitt Romney was planning to run for president towards the end of his administration” and called it “absolutely unconscionable, inexcusable that the records of those conversations or any conversations would have been wiped clean of servers.”
Photo by Gage Skidmore from Flickr.