Mitt Romney has an emerging secrecy problem. For someone whose primary claim to the nomination is that he has nothing to hide, he sure acts like he has something to hide.
First, there was the cleansing of Massachusetts state records from his time as Governor, including the purchase by 11 Romney aides of their hard drives upon leaving office and the purging of state computers. None of this apparently was illegal, but it certainly raised questions about why Romney went to such lengths.
Next, Romney declared that if nominated he would break with tradition and refuse to release his income tax returns, raising a number of questions as to what was on the returns that he would not want public, and playing right into the hands of the Obama campaign:
“Why does Governor Romney feel like he can play by a different set of rules?” said Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign. “What is it that he doesn’t want the American people to see? Governor Romney, who has favored secrecy over openness time after time, should live up to the same standard of disclosure his father and others set.”
Next, there was Romney’s refusal to release the names of bundlers playing right into the hands of The Washington Post editorial board:
Mr. Romney — breaking with the practice of previous Republican presidential candidates, including George W. Bush and John McCain — has refused to release the identities of his bundlers, the well-connected fundraisers who help the campaign haul in stacks of checks adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mr. Romney is under no legal obligation to reveal his bundlers, other than the relative handful who are also registered lobbyists.
As important as the state records, tax returns and bundler information are, there was an unnoticed report in The Telegraph which revealed an almost bizarre effort by the Romney campaign to conceal even mundane aspects of Romney’s narrative. Part of that narrative is of a time spent in relative poverty while a missionary in France.
When the Telegraph investigated, they not only discovered that Romney did not exactly live the poor life, but also that Romney aides had been there before them, instructing at least one of the people who was with Romney in France not to talk, Mitt Romney’s life as a poor Mormon missionary in France questioned (emphasis mine):
Although he spent time in other French cities, for most of 1968, Mr Romney lived in the Mission Home, a 19th century neoclassical building in the French capital’s chic 16th arrondissement. “It was a house built by and for rich people,” said Richard Anderson, the son of the mission president at the time of Mr Romney’s stay. “I would describe it as a palace”.
Tearful as he described the house, Mr Anderson, 70, of Kaysville, Utah, said Romney aides had asked him not to speak publicly about their time together there.
That the Romney campaign had anticipated questions about Romney’s missionary narrative and already reached out to a witness asking him not to talk about it publicly is troubling. Frankly, it’s the type of preemptive silencing of witnesses I would have expected of the Obama campaign regarding Obama’s college days.
Reaching out to witnesses and asking them not to talk about a candidate’s past is one of those details which makes one wonder why someone who has nothing to hide is acting like he has something to hide.