Vowing White House Transparency, Romney Keeps Campaign Strategy Under Wraps

PETERBOROUGH, N.H. — Vowing to conduct as transparent an administration as is required under federal law if he is elected to the White House, Mitt Romney declined tonight to delve into details about his strategy in Iowa, his plans to air televised advertisements or whether his computer was one of the several purchased by his aides before he left the post of Massachusetts governor.

“Under Massachusetts law, there is no provision asking either the governor or the legislature to provide any information for the archives,” said Romney when asked about his own computer files. “We voluntarily decided to do something which is not required by law: We put together 700 boxes of material from our administration and provided that to the archives. I don’t believe there’s ever been an administration that says let’s give you our computer files and emails.”

Earlier this week The Boston Globe published a story that described how several of Romney’s aides had spent their own money to purchase their hard drives and several extras, which were never confirmed to be the one that Romney himself had used.

Tonight, Romney argued that his administration was actually more forthcoming with information than they had to be.

“I don’t think any Republican administration from any prior governor has done something of that nature,” Romney said. “Why is that? Well, different reasons for different people — they may have personal information on there, medical records, resumes from people who have applied for jobs, or judicial appointments made and people applying for those positions. Those are confidential, of course. And so items that are personal or confidential, of course, would not be appropriate to put them in the public domain. We’d be violating our trust in doing so.”

Following the Globe article earlier this week, the Democratic National Committee submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to see any and all e-mails sent by Romney’s staff that may allude to the purchasing of the computers.

Asked again why the computers were purchased in the first place, Romney said, “Well for the very reasons if the hard drives have information or emails, they have information which could be confidential or private that could be obtained.

“The reason you, I presume, that you make sure if you’re not going to make something public you, in fact, don’t make it public,” he said.

Pressed further about the transparency he’d maintain if elected, Romney said that while he is unfamiliar with federal law in regard to what must be revealed from the White House, he anticipates his administration would do “what is required by the law and then some.”

The press conference was held following his 17th town hall in the Granite State, and Romney answered six questions, at one point joking to the press that if they promised to not tell anyone, he’d spill his campaign’s secrets.

“The confidentiality of strategy,” quipped Romney, answering a question about when campaign ads might hit the airwaves. Coincidentally, a professional camera crew was shooting tonight’s event as well as the press conference. Romney aides confirmed that it was, in fact, for a future advertisement.

“What I want to do is keep until the very last possible moment what our plans are,” said Romney of his ad buys. A film crew was also shooting an ad at a campaign stop earlier this month in Dubuque, Iowa.

“You can expect that we’re getting closer now, and as we get closer we’ll go up on the air. This is a calculation of how much money we have to spend and when is the right time to go up but I wouldn’t be expecting to be waiting weeks and weeks. It’s got to happen relatively soon and it’ll happen in the early primary states,” he said.

Romney’s town hall was under way just as six of his GOP rivals attended a gathering of religious conservatives at the Presidential Thanksgiving Family Forum in Des Moines, Iowa.

Having just this week opened a campaign office in the state — months after several of his opponents — Romney repeated his pledge to campaign seriously in all of the early states.

“We intend to play in Iowa and I want to do very well there,” he said. “It will come to no surprise to you that in the business world and in the political world we tend not to reveal our strategy to our competitors. And so you’ll wait and see what we do.

“You can also expect as we get closer to the caucuses and the primaries you’ll see us visiting those earlier states, spending more money there, turning out more volunteers and being more active,” he said. “Because as you get closer to the election not surprisingly you want to draw people to the polls.”

Trying to do just that tonight in New Hampshire, Romney differentiated himself from some of his competitors by explaining he is no career politician, a line he’s used before to assail Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

“If we have a leader who will be involved in the process and actually go up on Capitol Hill, meet with key legislators, bring them to the White House, have dinner with them, show them respect, I believe we can get the job done,” he said. “And by the way, that’s a big part of why I’m running. I’m not a lifelong politician, I didn’t spend my life in politics. I spent my life in business and then the Olympics.

“I joke I didn’t inhale,” Romney said, getting a laugh from the crowd. “I’m not looking for the next step in my political career.”

But going one step further, Romney added, “I don’t have a political career,” before quickly adding, “I’m concerned about my kids, and my grandkids.”

Also touching on his plan to cut spending, Romney drew on parts of his stump speech that refer to fiscal responsibility in terms of moral behavior.

“I just think it’s a moral imperative for our generation to stop spending their future, to instead recognize that in a moral America we will only spend what we take in and not a dollar more,” he said.