Mitt Romney has been pointing to his leadership of the Salt Lake Olympic Games 10 years ago as an indication that he’s the only candidate that voters can trust to spend taxpayer money wisely.
Just this month, he made a point of going after the other Republican primary contenders for wasteful spending:
“Republicans spend too much money, borrow too much money, earmark too much, and Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich need to be held accountable.”
But there’s one Republican missing from Romney’s list of unaccountable spenders: Mitt Romney. After all, he ran the world’s most expensive Olympic Games in history—and he did it on the federal dime.
As president of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, Romney organized the most “elaborate” and expensive Olympic opening in history, to the tune of $37 million.
Under Romney’s direction, these Olympic Games also took in more federal funding than any previous U.S. Olympics. While the federal government spent $75 million, mostly on safety and security, during the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics and $609 million for the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, it paid out $1.3 billion for Romney’s Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002.
The Olympics under Romney used taxpayer money to pay for Salt Lake City parking lots, sewer systems, and even an Olympic horse adoption program. Romney even admitted at the time that some of these unnecessary projects were not “must-haves” for the Olympics and bragged in a 2002 debate about the “record amount of money” he received from taxpayers. “That’s the same thing I’ll do as governor of Massachusetts,” he said. “Get more money from the federal government.”
His comfort with spending federal money would undoubtedly assure the Mitt Romney of 2002 a place on Mitt Romney of 2012’s list of unaccountable Republicans. One thing’s for certain when it comes to his time in Salt Lake City: if there is a true savior of the Olympic games, it’s not Romney. It’s the American taxpayer.