ABC News Blogs

EXCLUSIVE: In '02 Romney Touted D.C. Connections, Federal Funds

Jonathan Karl
ABC News Blogs

In a long-forgotten tape from the 2002 Massachusetts governor's race obtained by ABC News, Mitt Romney is seen touting his Washington connections and his ability to get millions of taxpayer dollars from the federal government.

"I am big believer in getting money where the money is," Romney says on the video, "The money is in Washington."

The video, which was surreptitiously shot by Democratic opponents of Romney on Oct. 16, 2002, shows him addressing a group called the New Bedford Industrial Foundation. The Power Point presentation he uses lists ways to improve economic development in Massachusetts, including "boost federal involvement."

"I want to go after every grant, every project, every department in Washington to assure that we are taking advantage of economic development opportunities," Romney tells the group.

And while Romney now often criticizes his opponents for being Washington insiders, in this video he touts his Washington connections.

"I have learned from my Olympic experience that if you have people who really understand how Washington works and have personal associations there you can get money to help build economic development opportunities," Romney says.

Romney has frequently criticized Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum for their roles in getting federal money - so-called earmarks - to fund special projects in their states while they were in Congress.  The Romney campaign, however, says this is different.

"Every state budget in the country is dependent on federal funding, and every governor in the country makes requests for funding, but governors do not get to decide how Congress appropriates money," said Romney spokesman Andrea Saul. "Governor Romney supports a permanent ban on earmarks, which are symbols of what's wrong with Washington."

As for his experience running the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, Romney says, ""the whole winter games was a combination of the federal, state and local governments along with private enterprise."

"We actually received over $410 million from the federal government for the Olympic games. That is a huge increase over anything ever done before and we did that by going after every agency of government," he says.

He even cites money one his colleagues managed to get for the Olympics from the Department of Education.

"She said, 'Why don't I get the Department of Education to buy tickets to the Paralympics so that high school and grade school kids can go to the Paralympics?' She literally got, I believe the number  was over $1 million from the Department of Education, funding to buy tickets for kids," Romney said.  "This way we got kids there and we also got additional revenues that we wouldn't have had.  That kind of creativity I want to bring to everything we do."

The Romney campaign points out that more than half of the taxpayer money for the Salt Lake City Olympics went for federal, state and local agencies to handle security.  And because Romney so aggressively pursued private money, the taxpayer share of the total budget for the Olympics represented 18 percent, compared to 50 percent for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

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