Mike Leavitt was the 14th Governor of Utah. Below is his response to Rick Santorum’s charges regarding Mitt Romney and the 2002 Olympics.


Fitting the profile

by Mike Leavitt, Guest columnist

Thanks to some charges leveled by former Sen. Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney’s stewardship of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games has become the subject of a curious controversy. Among other things, Santorum has suggested that Mitt succeeded thanks only to a “federal bailout.” As I was governor of Utah at the time, I’m in a unique position to set the record straight.

Here are the facts:

Four years before the Games were to begin, they got caught up in a scandal. Sponsors began to withdraw and the budget of the Games was nearly $400 million over anticipated expenditures. A new leader was needed. Utah was at risk financially, and I personally engaged in the search for the right person. I found Mitt Romney, who had a distinguished career in business, helping to start new companies and turn around failing ones.

Within weeks of his arrival, Mitt had laid out a revitalized vision for the Games. Mitt assembled a new team to bring the budget under control. I repeatedly heard him explain that if the budget was to be balanced, every spending request had to be divided into needs and wants. He called on the people of Utah to volunteer to close the gap. I’ll never forget the ad he placed in Utah papers. It read: “Help wanted; hard work, no pay, better hurry.” Fifty thousand people responded.

When the Games had concluded, they were an unqualified success. In a world still reeling from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, people across the globe were assured that they could gather in safety to celebrate the highest qualities of the human family. Mitt Romney’s leadership had turned the $400 million deficit into a $100 million surplus. It was a spectacular turnaround. Sen. Santorum’s suggestion that only a “federal bailout” made all this possible is flatly wrong. We looked to the federal government only to assist with security and necessary infrastructure. Throughout, Mitt did the right thing, and he did it extraordinarily well.

After the Olympic Games had concluded, Mitt Romney returned to Massachusetts where he was elected governor. His state had a $3 billion deficit and the economy needed a turnaround. With the same discipline he used in business and the Olympics, at the end of four years he turned it into a $2 billion rainy-day fund.

The bottom line is this: The profile of the person we were looking for to rescue the Olympics matches almost perfectly what United States needs in our next president. We need a leader who can return us to fiscal responsibility, discern between those things that are needs and wants, and inspire a demoralized people to believe again. Mitt Romney is a leader who can do those things, and more.

Leavitt served as Utah’s governor from 1993-2003