‘I Couldn’t Love Him More:’ How Romney Steered a Key Olympic Project to a Friend
As Mitt Romney got ready to take his seat in London for the Olympics’ opening ceremonies, the focus of the presidential campaign this week shifted focus to the candidate’s time running the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Romney is generally recognized as the take-charge executive who turned the Games around after a massive bribery scandal. But there’s another side to that record. Romney’s campaigns, as we’ve previously reported, have taken in $1.5 million in donations from the families and business associates of two central figures in the Salt Lake scandal. And documents obtained by Mother Jones shed new light on another of the candidate’s Olympic connections—his personal intervention on behalf of his closest Salt Lake friend, developer Kem Gardner, in connection with a key real-estate deal.
At issue is the Olympic Legacy Plaza, a public square in the Gateway, a massive shopping/retail/office complex that Gardner was developing at the time. The plaza features the 2002 Games’ snowflake logo, a fountain, and a concrete “wall of honor” listing donors and volunteers. No other bids or sites were considered for the project, which helped Gardner secure a multimillion-dollar city tax break for building a public plaza. Romney also wrote a memo discouraging other municipalities from building competing projects, and he helped fill a Gateway housing complex with media representatives during the Games. Gardner, his family, and his business associates have since given more than $500,000 to Romney’s campaigns.