How Mitt “saved” the Olympics…

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/59124558@N06/7600821418/” title=”GGD-00-183 Olympic Games: Federal Government Provides Significant Funding and Support by dengre.bj, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8421/7600821418_881f26b56e_z.jpg” width=”434″ height=”640″ alt=”GGD-00-183 Olympic Games: Federal Government Provides Significant Funding and Support”></a>

I lived in Athens, GA during the 1996 Games. There were some scandals, before, during and after the event, but nothing like the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. It was a scandalpalooza.

When you think about scandal and the Salt Lake games, most folks think about how Salt Lake “won” the Games. It turns out that bribes were involved. When the news broke in 1998 there was “outrage”. Investigations were launched. Careers were ruined and jobs were lost. The FBI spent more resources investigating the 2002 Olympics scandal than they spent investigating the Oklahoma City bombings and yet very little came of it–sure, there were a handful of convictions, but the two Leaders of the SLC Olympic Bid Team were acquitted of all charges in 2003.

Still, a scandal is a great opportunity to reshuffle the power cards when a grifter train like the Olympics is coming to town. Folks who were on the outside looking in could suddenly be in control–all they needed was a front man. Enter Mitt Romney.

The Games would go on with or with out Mitt. This was never in doubt. What was in doubt was who would profit and who would have the inside track. What was in doubt was how to rake in profits without having to make investments. What the grifters needed was a leverage artist. What they needed was Mitt. And Mitt delivered.

In the glare of the bidding scandal a thousand grift flowers bloomed. Mitt’s top priority as the new head of the SLC Games was to get US taxpayers to bail out the effort–he succeeded and then some. He spent almost $4 Million to lobby Congress and the Bush Administration to send him mountains of cash. Most of the lobbying fees ($2.65 Million)  went to his in-house lobbying effort led by his now long-time staffer/co-grifter Cindy Gillespie (who played the same role with Mitt when he was Governor of Massachusetts). Mitt’s team of lobbyists went after every possible Federal dollar. The lobbying disclosure reports have them talking to everybody in the pursuit of Earmarks, favors and old-school appropriations. [You can look at these yourself. Go to the Senate’s lobbyist disclosure database / click on the checkbox for “client name” / type in “SALT LAKE ORGANIZING” and you have the forms–just click on them.]

When the dust settled, Mitt’s lobbying effort brought over $1.5 Billion to the SLC Games. In 2000 the GAO did an audit of US taxpayer support for Olympic Games in the country. Taxpayers spent $74,654,000 for the LA Games in 1984; and $608,512,000 for the 1996 in Atlanta. These were both summer Olympics and so you would expect them to cost more. But, the 2002 Winter Games in SLC blew the doors off the Treasury–taxpayers paid $1.5 Billion to bail out Mitt.

For the LA GAmes, taxpayers only paid for the Federal role during the games. In the Atlanta and SLC Games, taxpayers paid the most money to help the host city prepare their infrastructure. We spent $423,919,000 to help Atlanta and almost thrice that ($1.25 Billion) for Salt Lake City–and this is where the post-Olympics scandals can be found.

Look at the map on the top of this post. It is from the GAO report. It shows the 10 major road and highway projects funded by taxpayers for the Winter Games. Where these roads went, and who had control of the land was at the core of the grift. It is an old school scandal (remember Chinatown) and a scandal that can be mapped. The land around these taxpayer funded projects were owned by some people before the Olympics game to town. Then other folks magically got control of the land. And then the Federal Government built out the infrastructure to these parcels (roads, water sewer, etc.). Next, it could be developed. It could be rented and sold and resold. Businesses could start. New communities could start. Utah could have an economic boom–all because taxpayers bailed out the Olympics.

And yet, the folks who profited from this bailout–Mitt and all his pals–will pretend that they saved the fucking Olympics and that they were brilliant Masters of the Universe who create wealth and profit. The fact that they owe everything to their ability to fleece US taxpayers will never be mentioned.

The post 2002 Winter Games Olympic Scandal dwarfs the the Bidding scandal, but that is not the narrative we are told. Rather we are fed a stinky stew about Mitt “saving” the Olympics through his wits and the mighty, mighty “magic”of the invisible hand.

So it goes.

Cheers

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62 replies
  1. 1
    Calouste says:

    You’re missing out on a few zeros here and there.

  2. 2

    So can we expect the DNC or OFA to make much of this? Or should I not expect a pony (dancing or otherwise)?

  3. 3

    So can we expect the DNC or OFA to make much of this? Or should I not expect a pony (dancing or otherwise)?

  4. 4
    bk says:

    This needs to be spread around.

  5. 5
    Linda Featheringill says:

    Oooo! Another source of information for the “vetting” of Romney. Heh, heh.

    I have absolutely no hard information but I do have a suspicious mind. I’m sure that other, like-minded folk, also with suspicious minds, can ferret out the details.

    Must put popcorn on the grocery list.

  6. 6
    Dennis G. says:

    @Calouste: Thanks. Too much time looking though the report and forgetting “1999 dollars in thousands” notation.

  7. 7
    ploeg says:

    If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’re organizing the Olympics. you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

  8. 8

    Can we expect the DNC or OFA to make much of this? Or should I not expect a pony, dancing or otherwise?

  9. 9
    ploeg says:

    If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’re organizing the Olympics. you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

  10. 10

    Can we expect the DNC or OFA to make much of this? Or should I not expect a pony, dancing or otherwise?

  11. 11
    MattR says:

    I was thinking about this earlier today. I wish I had time to look through the recent political contributions of the various resort owners and other businessmen who were the beneficary of all the government spending prior to the 2002 Olympics.

  12. 12
    JGabriel says:

    Looking over Romney’s career and Bain’s record, I wonder why it is that banks keep doing business with them. It seems like the RMoney/Bain method of operation is to buy a company, leverage it up the wazoo, pull out all cash in fees & etc., then let the impoverished shell of a company go bankrupt, and leave the banks and taxpayers on the hook for the defaulted loans and stolen pensions.

    Why the hell would anyone do business with someone like that, much less vote for him or elect him president of the whole freaking country?

    .

  13. 13
    General Stuck says:

    taxpayers paid $1.5 Billion to bail out Mitt.

    Yuppers. Oh Noes , BAILOUT. I figure this is up on the O team queue at some point in the roll out to define Mitt Romney.

    Or, Mitt was for bailouts before he was against them

    Strike up the band, right wing vapors are gonna need a lot of fainting couches before this is over.

  14. 14
    Nutella says:

    we are fed a stinky stew about Mitt “saving” the Olympics through his wits and the mighty, mighty “magic”of the invisible hand.

    They were hoping the hand that was picking our pockets would remain invisible. Having the chief pickpocket run for president brings it all out into the light, though.

    Mitt was running on his experience since he won’t specify any programs or policies. Governorship? No. Bain? Not any more. Olympics? Whoops.

    All he’s got left is his experience dodging the draft in Paris.

  15. 15

    Apologies for the awful echo. I blame 97F followed by a gigantic storm. That is all.

  16. 16
    Nutella says:

    @ploeg:

    If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’re organizing the Olympics. you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

    QFT

  17. 17
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    I posted a link and a bunch of quotes to an ’07 Boston Phoenix article that spells out all the crony capitalism Willard brought to the Olympics on this thread. He doesn’t have a clean line on his resume.

  18. 18
    NotMax says:

    2002? Might as well be 1802 so far as the general voting public is concerned. Hoping there are no serious safety or security issues in London which the Mitt campaign can (and would) exploit as negative comparisons to how the games ran when he was in charge.

    Unless there is documented footage of Mitt standing with a whip over naked children scratching ore out the ground for gold for the 2002 medals, it’s a flash in the pan set of data.

    Useful in the debates perhaps, but beyond that a sidebar story with no legs.

  19. 19
    Mike in NC says:

    Per MSNBC last night, only Mormons were eligible for a religious deferment to do “missionary work” during the war in Vietnam. Very interesting.

  20. 20
    jwb says:

    @General Stuck: He’s saving this one for closer to the Olympics when Romney starts waxing nostalgic about his role. It makes no sense to play the card yet.

  21. 21

    @a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q): I think they’re saving this line of attack for when Mitt has nowhere else to run but being “Mister Olympics” and nothing else. There’s still a lot of time to wear him down on Bain and tax returns first.

  22. 22
    jwb says:

    @NotMax: It’s there to be exploited if Romney decides to make a bigger play on his Olympics past. It makes no sense for Obama to do anything with it now. But Romney’s plan seems to be to use the London games to talk about his leadership of the SLC games, and once that happens, this stuff is set to roll—I imagine they already have the ads ready to go.

  23. 23
    PurpleGirl says:

    @JGabriel: Because the banks get fees for giving advice about the loans and the transaction and also get fees for making the loans.

  24. 24
  25. 25
    NotMax says:

    @jwb

    Ads which immediately will be morphed and then trumpeted for weeks (plus all through the GOP convention, which comes after the Olympics) by the noise machine into:

    1) Why does Obama hate the Olympics?

    2) Obama’s War on the Olympics

    3) Obama insults America’s Team

  26. 26
    NotMax says:

    @jwb

    Ads which immediately will be morphed and then trumpeted for weeks (plus all through the GOP convention, which comes after the Olympics) by the noise machine into:

    1) Why does Obama hate the Olympics?

    2) Obama’s War on the Olympics

    3) Obama insults America’s Team

    4) Obama’s appetite for sour grapes is insatiable

  27. 27
    NotMax says:

    It’s twins! Almost.

    My first FYWP double post.

  28. 28
    ChrisNYC says:

    I watched the first of his Mass gov debates today. (Available on C span!) He boasts about all the delicious federal money he got for the Olympics. “A record amount,” he says and beams. You know that’s going in an ad. Hahahaha.

    That and the thing about blind trusts — “an age old roooose if you will.” So says Mitt of the Romney blind trust.

  29. 29
    JoyfulA says:

    @NotMax: Well, he did have the torchbearers’ uniforms made in Myanmar, but I don’t know whether the Burmese generals had naked children doing the sewing.

  30. 30
    gwangung says:

    @NotMax: This assumes a competence among the Romney team that they have yet to demonstrate.

  31. 31
    maya says:

    The only thing I remember about the 2002 Olympics was the opening ceremony with NBC’s Bob Costas and K-K-K-Katie Cuoric, (in a ridiculous, eye melting, big red headband) over-talking the action about how many feathers were in each boa the skating orphans wore. The worst efing opening piece of crap ever.

  32. 32
    Redshift says:

    @NotMax:

    Ads which immediately will be morphed and then trumpeted for weeks (plus all through the GOP convention, which comes after the Olympics) by the noise machine into:

    Yeah, just like they morphed Obama’s line about how business is built on the infrastructure we all pay for into “Obama hates business!” So?

    The noise machine will do what it always does; it only matters if anyone outside the bubble pays attention. The Romney team will likely focus on “winning the week” just like McCain’s team did, and the Obama team will lay the groundwork so that any time Mitt tries to talk about his “accomplishments” to anyone but the Republican base, someone will say “but there are these questions…”

  33. 33
    NotMax says:

    @gwangung

    Doesn’t have to emanate from them, FOX, Limbaugh, Palin, et al will provide the megaphone, find a born-again far right athlete or two (bonus points if they were ever medal winners) and set the contorted ball rolling. The Romney campaign just has to stoop down and pick it up.

  34. 34
    Redshift says:

    @General Stuck:

    Or, Mitt was for bailouts before he was against them

    And earmarks! Don’t forget the earmarks!

    I’m sure “well, that’s the way things were done then” will go over real well with the Palinistas.

  35. 35
    clayton says:

    @ploeg:
    THIS

  36. 36
    NotMax says:

    @redshift

    The ‘So?’ is that there is a veritable Scrooge McDuck-ful of PAC money to run deceptive ads, so they don’t have to pick and choose over paying ad costs.

    If run during the Olympics, when many, many more pairs of eyes are tuned in.

    If run after the conventions wrap up, when the bulk of the public starts tuning in to the election and concluding what is conventional wisdom out of the bombardment they are subjected to.

  37. 37
    gwangung says:

    @NotMax: Like I said, you’re assuming competence from the Romney campaign they’ve yet to demonstrate…

    (And the Burma gaffe and the kickbacks plays more to the big business corruption angle than anything else…far above the pay level of an athlete…).

  38. 38
    Bruce S says:

    According to Bartlett and Steele’s contemporaneous piece in Sports Illustrated, Mitt’s “rescue” cost the tax payers nearly 1000% more per athlete (none of it went to them, of course) than the Atlanta games.

    “If the minimum wage had gone up at the same pace (as US govt.spending on the 2002 Olympic games) since the ’84 Olympics, the average McDonald’s hamburger flipper today would earn $190 an hour.” (SI – 2002)

    Romney isn’t good at anything but enriching himself and using government in the best crony capitalist fashion as a feeding trough for whatever scheme he’s involved in. I hate this piece of shit. Hate him worse than I hate Santorum or Michelle Bachman, who have the excuse that they’re batshit crazy. Romney is cut from the same cynical, narcissistic, lying cloth as Rush Limbaugh. And he’s a disgrace to his parents, for what that’s worth. Doesn’t really matter to me, but more evidence of his being a soul-less douche who will do anything, no matter how dishonest or shameful, to advance his petty ambitions.

  39. 39
    Bruce S says:

    Incidentally, I think it’s good to hit him on the Olympics and profligate tax $$$, since that is his excuse for not being around when Bain was killing jobs. More of this.

    The only good things this creep has ever done or said were when he was governor of Massachusetts and had a Democratic electorate and legislature to deal with. But if he runs on that moderate record he’s got to embrace Obamacare. I wonder who hates whom more – Romney hating his “base” for forcing him into this untenable pretzel bullshit, or his base hating Romney for not believing the crap he throws in their direction and being their only shot at taking down Obama. This is a marriage made in Hell. Which is where both of them belong.

  40. 40
    Bruce S says:

    I’m betting a major piece in Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker or New York mag comes out dissecting Mitt’s Olympic scam. This could be the straw…

    The guy is a fraud – frankly the biggest fraud I can remember running for President in my lifetime (I remember Eisenhower – yeah, I’m that old.) Nixon had more gravitas and core values than this hollow piece of crap.

  41. 41
    jwb says:

    @NotMax: And I’m sure Obama’s team is ready for each of those counters. So far they have shown themselves to be amazingly competent at this game.

  42. 42
    Agoraphobic Kleptomaniac says:

    Dear taxpayers,

    Thanks for the new highways, the new lightrail, the beginning steps of a commuter train, new University buildings, and the several giant venues.

    Not to mention the free Foo Fighters concert and several other awesome events that were free thanks to the bailout.

    Seriously, Utah’s central infrastructure is now pretty sweet.

    Sincerely, A Utahn

  43. 43
    Citizen_X says:

    @Agoraphobic Kleptomaniac: I drove through SLC on the interstate a couple of years ago, and I thought, “Ooh, nice roads!” Now I understand that that’s because I helped pay for them.

  44. 44
    NotMax says:

    @jwb

    Irrelevant.

    A fallacy becoming deep-rooted conventional wisdom (death panels, for example) could be enough to tip the balance in the short time frame until the first Tuesday in November.

  45. 45
    Kane says:

    Romney’s claim that he saved the Olympics has about as much truth as his claim that he created 100,000 jobs.

    In the recent interview-fest, Jonathan Karl asked Romney about the Olympic uniform issue twice and Romney refused to weigh in both times. Romney knows he’s dirty, he’s just hoping that no one will delve into the issue.

    He can’t run on Bain, his governorship, or the Olympics. What’s left?

  46. 46
    jwb says:

    @NotMax: Well, yes, Romney might hit a tight shot. But the angles you laid out—I’m certain the Obama team is ready for any of those, so I’ll take Obama’s odds there over Romney’s. The Obama campaign team is very good and your worries are simply not my worries.

  47. 47
    Paulk says:

    Oddly, one of those “Olympic venue” thingees is sitting, swear to God, right on top of my house. I’m not sure what it’s referring to, though, unless it’s the I-80 construction, but that didn’t happen until just a few years ago (perhaps with Olympic money, I don’t know—UDOT is the worst state agency I’ve ever come across).

    It’s probably just a crude representation for “downtown.” Of course, the big joke leading up to the games was the empty parking lot that the Olympic Committee paid rent on to the local hotel magnate for several years leading up to the Games—to remain an empty parking lot. If someone wants to do some digging, I bet there are a million stones to overturn.

  48. 48
    Betsy says:

    @Redshift: Yeah. That’s bout what I thought when their Obama-singing-Al-Green ad came out. Just petty comeback stuff … plus, Barack sounded GOOD, and when the crowd went wild in that ad, most viewers will feel an empathic thrill along with the sound of the cheer — but the haters can’t see that. They only know their own feelings, which run along the lines of “Ugh! How are the libs so taken in by this guy! Rock star, rock star … smooth talker … jabber, jabber …”

    Funny, I remember something about them devaluing empathy back when there was a Justiceto be confirmed.

  49. 49
    Chris T. says:

    @Citizen_X: Yes, although there was a little contractor skimming on some of the concrete, so that some of the road surfaces had to be redone after just 3 or 4 years instead of the usual ten.

    (But that’s pretty standard for Interstate construction in general.)

  50. 50
    karen marie says:

    @bk: I’ve been doing my part. )

  51. 51
    karen marie says:

    @JoyfulA: The funniest part about that (well, really, the only funny part, aside from the schadenfreude) was the response to complaints about the outsourcing to Myanmar — “Oh, no, that’s being done in Burma!” Hahahahaha. I almost split a gut on that one.

  52. 52
    cmorenc says:

    Salt Lake City is a delightful place to live, partly in spite of and partly because of the Mormons. Actually, only half it’s population is Mormon any more; the rest are hard-core skiers, rock climbers, and hippies. OK, so if you’re the sort of person who likes the outdoors and active recreation, it’s a delightful place, with one of the greatest grocery stores on the planet right downtown, Harmon’s, only a couple of blocks from Temple Square, and one of the greatest Mexican restaurants on the planet, the Red Iguana on North Temple. It’s a very easy city to get around in and commute to work, with light rail going up to the University of Utah up on the hill, another line going all the way out to Sandy, and a new about-to-be completed line going from downtown directly to the airport. They even have city bus service that will take you from downtown and drop you off with your skis right at the foot of the lifts at Alta or Snowbird in little Cottonwood Canyon, or Solitude or Brighton in big Cottonwood Canyon. It has terrific scenic hiking trails from the edge of town right up into the Wasatch.

    I’m just glad the Olympics did nothing to ruin Salt Lake City (or most especially Alta and Snowbird ski areas), and the residual infrastructure is all extremely useful to all its citizens and visitors, no white elephants. I am no Romney fan at all, but the one thing I give him credit for is not fucking up the Olympics or Salt Lake City, even if he did need a shitload of federal and other government money to help pull it off, and there were the unsurprising crony deals involved (but at least it resulted in competently executed projects).

  53. 53
    karen marie says:

    @karen marie: Or, the other way around, I guess. Whatever, I laughed and laughed.

  54. 54
    karen marie says:

    @cmorenc: Glad to hear that. As outrageous as the amount of money and hypocrisy, if SLC residents got real value out of it, I certainly don’t begrudge it having been done. What’s infuriating is that the very people who raked in tremendous profits are now bitching about paying a measly additional 4% on their income taxes.

    I don’t like living on the west coast. Everyone is asleep when I’m just getting started.

  55. 55
    the dude says:

    @cmorenc: As a Salt Lake City expat (left last week for Oz) I can only agree: if you live within SLC itself then it’s hipster/extreme sports heaven, and thankfully the 2002 olympics projects all turned out to be quite useful after the event. I must get back there next winter to hang out at Snowbasin and Canyons …

  56. 56
    What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us? (formerly MarkJ) says:

    Seriously sounds like White Water on steroids, and then some. And this is supposedly the part of his record that’s least tarnished. Ever notice how every time an opponent brings up layoffs at Bain he says he was on leave during those years? Wonder when the Obama team will ask how many year’s of leave he’ll take if he gets elected president?

  57. 57
    Jay C says:

    I’m not sure how much mileage Romney will be able to get out his “rescue” of the 2002 Olympics, now that he is under the spotlight to the extent that he is. The Emperor’s ass has already been shown to be bare: if Mitt tries to lean too hard on his “expertise” in “saving” the Games, I’m sure there will be someone (probably from Chicago) popping up to remind the folks about the $1.5B worth of that Federally-financed infrastructure which Mitt and the GOP seem to disparage so much when President Obama brings the subject up. Great subject for an Obama ad: a long shot of a highway in Utah: a reference to taxpayer support for the 2002 Games, and the tag: “No, Mitt: you DIDN’T build that!

    This is, of course, a purely American phenomenon: in virtually every other country on Earth that the Olympic Games (Summer or Winter) are a “prestige” event which will require at least some infrastructure investment – usually paid for by the national government – is a given. Of course, here in Free Enterprise Paradise, there’s this weird notion that the Olympics should somehow be a profit-making endeavor. USA! USA!

  58. 58
    WaterGirl says:

    @ploeg: ding ding ding!

  59. 59
    Bruce S says:

    @Kane:

    “He can’t run on Bain, his governorship, or the Olympics. What’s left?”

    Good hair and lies about Obama.

  60. 60
    Watusie says:

    Wingnuts defend Mitt by saying it would have cost the taxpayer even MORE if he had not stepped in, because he inherited such a mess and because the IOC are a bunch of commie leaches.

    I like to counter this by asking why Mitt didn’t use his legendary managerial skills to simply rid the country of this pestilence by transferring the games back to Nagano who had just hosted them and therefore already had the infrastructure in place to do it again, even on relatively short (3 years) notice.

    Mitt’s intervention into the SLC Olympics wasn’t on behalf of the nation – it was to spare Utah embarassment, pure and simple.

  61. 61
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