Federal Investigators Start Looking at Romney
by Jonathan Singer, Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 09:17:29 AM EDT
Despite the theory by many pundits that Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney can successfully position himself as the more party-line conservative alternative to John McCain in 2008, I have generally been skeptical that the Republican Party, which, if my research is correct, has never nominated for president someone outside of a Protestant faith, will change course at this juncture. But leaving that aside, Romney is polling at 15 percent in New Hampshire, according to the latest polling, and remains at least a credible candidate. For that reason, Casey Ross' article in the conservative Boston Herald this weekend should cause real concern for the Massachusetts Governor.
Federal officials are probing scathing allegations that the Romney administration falsely claimed to conduct safety inspections in the Big Dig tunnel that collapsed and killed a woman in July.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is zeroing in on state financial documents from 2005 - cited in a new report by state Inspector General Gregory Sullivan - indicating that Gov. Mitt Romney was reviewing the safety of the Big Dig, when in fact the administration was only checking leaks in the Interstate 93 tunnel.
"Despite repeated assurances to bondholders, (MassHighway and Romney's Executive Office of Transportation) . . . did not inspect the I-90 connector tunnel section where the July 10, 2006, collapse occurred," Sullivan's report states. "It is clear that casual disregard for the truth was grossly inappropriate."
The federal probe threatens to undercut Romney's efforts to portray himself as a white knight for taxpayers on the problem-plagued $15 billion project as he lays the groundwork for a presidential run.
There is more than enough time before the primary season really heats up for Romney to exonerate himself, should he deserve to do so. However, if there was malfeasance under his watch -- even if he is not directly implicated in it -- it's difficult for me to forsee him being able to shake this story. If the lack of oversight led to a fatal crash in the tunnel, it won't matter if Romney covered up or not because the responsibility for ensuring the safety of the tunnel ultimately lies on the Governor as the head of state. And after eight years of this current administration, it's fairly safe to say that the American people are going to prefer politicians who demand accountability rather than shirk responsibility.