By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

PolitiFact puts Hard Drive-gate to rest

Hard Drive-gate appears to have faded away. But in case you were still wondering whether former governor Mitt Romney and his staff did anything wrong by destroying most of their electronic records when Romney left office in January 2007, the Pulitzer Prize-winning news organization PolitiFact says “no.” Its ruling:

The Romney administration’s decision to erase most electronic files is neither illegal nor unusual. According to state records officials, past governors such as Weld, Cellucci and 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.

PolitiFact is no fan of Romney. Page through its “Pants on Fire” section — that is, statements deemed to be outrageous lies — and you’ll find that Mitt is well-represented. But it seemed pretty clear from the beginning that criticizing Romney’s staff for not turning over non-public electronic records was ridiculous. And so it was.

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  1. Nial Lynch

    PolitiFact Puts Hard Drive-gate To Rest

    Until DK shows up with resuscitation paddles. CLEAR!!

    • Dan Kennedy

      Nial: I’ve been knocking this story down since day one. But why let the facts get in the way?

  2. Melissa Kenny

    The reason the story went on was due to the lengths to which Romney’s staff went to destroy all the records. They certainly didn’t buy the hard drives because they were a bargain. They bought them so they could destroy them and ensure nothing would survive the purge. The whole thing suggested they were hiding something, even if they weren’t.

  3. Nial Lynch

    Sorry Dan, I see that now. Just thought that you were out in the bleachers trying to keep the beach ball alive.

  4. Stephen Stein

    Politifact has been held up as the gold standard of arbitrating fact and fiction in the political debates.

    But Politifact itself is coming under scrutiny – one of its candidates for “Lie of the Year” is the contention by Democrats that the Republicans want to end Medicare as we know it. Yet the contention is demonstrably TRUE. Politifact itself even concedes that “the Republican plan would be a huge change to the current program”.

    So who will sit in judgment of the judges?

    • Dan Kennedy

      Stephen: I think PolitiFact does excellent work, but that it’s better on strictly factual matters, such as the Romney electronic records, than on areas where there’s some judgment involved. I happen to agree with you that the Republicans were proposing to abolish Medicare and replace it with a lesser program that it would call — voilà! — Medicare. But if you were so inclined, it would be no less truthful to say the Republicans were proposing a significant reform in order to save Medicare.

  5. Jack Sullivan

    One of my problems with this is the successor to Weld was his lieutenant governor, Cellucci, whose successor was his lieutenant governor, Swift. The decision to withhold emails that they probably knew about anyway that may have been more troublesome than helpful is hardly the determining precedent Politifact wants to use as its baseline.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Jack: PolitiFact is going back to the dawn of electronic records in Massachusetts. What should it have done instead?

  6. Joan Vennochi

    Who said something has to be illegal to be news? Erasing records can be news, as well as buying hard drives.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Joan and Al: I think you could make a good argument that any records that are non-public should be destroyed as a matter of law.

  7. Al Fiantaca

    TPM and HuffPost both ran front page articles yesterday claiming that Team Romney spent $100,000 to insure that digital records of their time in power were scrubbed from the public forum.

  8. Al Fiantaca

    Dan: With public officials, who makes the decision as to what is a non-public record? If they were that concerned about private information, perhaps they should not have used public computers and email systems to conduct that communication. I know it happens. I used my work computer for personal stuff. We probably all have. It just seems that they used a too curious plan to scrub them.

    • Dan Kennedy

      Al: The governor’s office is exempt from the state’s public-records law. That’s how we know that Romney did nothing wrong. There’s so much we could be saying about Romney, and very little of it is good. Why are we focusing on his complying with the law and protecting his employees’ privacy rights? Just because Deval Patrick drops a dime to the Globe, that doesn’t make this a story.

  9. Bill Schweber

    Folks, what’s with this repeated, never-ending use of the phrase “drop a dime” by the media? It’s such a dated, tired, archaic phrase…tells everyone that media folks are still back in the stone age of pay phones, 10-cent calls, and maybe even “long distance” dialing. (It’s also a lazy, shorthand cliche.)
    To anyone under 30–and I am well past that–it’s a meaningless phrase, one that shouts “I’m still in the 1970s and 1980s, how about you?”
    I see/hear it used by so many local reporters and analysts, and it is very embarrasing.
    OK, I’m getting off my soapbox (another time-worn, and worn-out, phrase!).

    • Dan Kennedy

      Careful, Bill, or I’ll throw you under the bus.

  10. Al Fiantaca

    @ Dan: For me, it’s never been about whether the Romney people violated any law, but what communication did they not to see publicized, and what led them to undertake such a concerted effort to prevent.

  11. Mike Benedict

    Newt Gingrich just called me and said he would be personally honored to have my support to help him fix Barack Obama’s “radical … failed vision of a secular, socialist European state.”

    Wonder if he means Germany, where the (progressive) tax rate is 42% for anyone making over 42,500 euros and 45% for those with incomes over 250,000 euros, where the (additional) municipal trade tax rate is 14 to 17%, where the capital gains tax is 25% to 60%, where medical care is guaranteed, and where the government has to approve any layoffs? Oh, and where the country is considered a huge financial success?

  12. Glen Bergendahl

    Why do I get the feeling that if the name Newt Gingrich headlined this piece as opposed to Mitt Romney, it might be more objectionable to you Dan?

  13. Laurence Glavin

    I’m the person who watches “The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell”, and he dropped in a mention of the Mittster cronies’ hahd drives on his show Tuesday night. Something about the $100,00 dollahs the state had to cough up to replace those computahs with new ones.

  14. Peter Sullivan

    I like the irony of the fact that an ad for Crushing your hard drive appears in your right hand ad position!!!

    Maybe not so ironic!!!!!

    • Dan Kennedy

      Peter: No, not ironic at all. I didn’t see the ad, but Google searches for keywords and robotically serves up whatever ads it deems appropriate. So there you go.

  15. C.E. Stead

    @Lawrence – that would have been the Cognos boxes that were installed per a new contract shortly after he left.

    You might want to ask Mr. DiMasi about them…

    (Full disclosure – I had a perfectly good Dell replaced with that POS. The ripoff wouldn’t have been so bad had the software been evern remotely adequate)

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