When Mitt Romney's nephew pitched the idea of having his start-up Utah commodities firm help make the 2002 Winter Olympics more environmental friendly, officials with the Salt Lake Organizing Committee jumped at the prospect.
The Olympic organizers were looking for low-cost ways to go green and Ryan Davies offered his company's services for free, hoping a contract with the vaunted sporting event would be a marketing boon for his fledgling company, called 02 Blue, Inc.
How Davies secured the Salt Lake Olympic contract for his firm, however, appears to have been far less formal than the process used by the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) to award work to its vendors, ABC News has found. Davies said in an interview the deal had nothing to do with the fact that he is the nephew of the man who was running the games at the time, and who is now the Republican nominee for president.
"This is not anything I went directly to him about," said Davies, whose father is the brother of Romney's wife Ann. "Mitt has a very, very strict personal rule about having an iron wall of separation between family and business."
Through a campaign spokesman, Romney declined to comment to ABC News about the work awarded to his nephew during the Olympics. The spokesman reiterated, however, that the work 02 Blue conducted was done for free, and that Romney did not personally approve the arrangement.
While 02 Blue did not get paid, Davies said, the experience enabled the start-up to tout itself as an Olympic vendor when it sought a second round of venture financing, and Davies later relied on the Salt Lake work when he sought a lucrative contract to reduce the environmental impact of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
"It was pure PR [public relations] for us," Davies said.
Both on the campaign trail and in his book, "Turnaround," Romney has touted his success in rescuing the 2002 Olympics from financial distress and helping overcome the taint of a bribery scandal. In the book, Romney describes his efforts to bring a businesslike atmosphere to the games -- an approach he had used during his consulting years at Bain & Company to help struggling enterprises bounce back.
ABC News has pieced together details of the arrangement between the SLOC and 02 Blue through interviews with those involved and through the very first handful of official records released by the University of Utah, which is hustling to complete work on the Salt Lake Olympics archive ahead of the 2012 presidential election.
While most companies doing work for the Salt Lake Games had to complete a rigorous application process and in many cases present competitive bids to win an Olympic contract, 02 Blue's arrangement began when Davies approached David Workman, who was a mid-level official in the committee's environmental office. Davies told Workman that 02 Blue would be willing to help the Olympics solicit donations from large companies for pollution credits -- credits traded like commodities that could be used to offset a company's harmful emissions into the environment.
Davis had found success turning to his uncle's enterprises in the past. A dot-com start-up where he worked before joining 02 Blue received financial backing from Bain Capital, according to one of the company's founders.
"We went in and said, why don't we try this," Davies told ABC News. "We wanted this, frankly for publicity for us."