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D.C. Notebook: The story of Romney's secret bunker

Published June 2, 2013 8:09 pm

Politics • Campaign did, indeed, have binders full of women — and men.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It's almost like a scene out of a spy movie: Secret documents being pulled from a secure bunker and ferried by train up the East Coast by four inconspicuous staffers en route to a vault to be opened under only one circumstance.

That, however, is essentially the story of names of potential top officials who were in line to serve in a Mitt Romney administration.

Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, who headed Romney's transition team, unveiled a book last week detailing the process he went through to prepare for a Romney presidency.

And tucked inside — on page 99 — is the interesting tale of how Romney staffers collected 20,000 pages of information on potential picks for top administration spots — in all, 40 binders of secret info meant only to be opened by President-elect Romney.

The info was compiled and stored in a "bunker" in the transition team's Washington headquarters, with the most sensitive data stuck on a computer in the "inside bunker" with no Internet or networking capability.

Come Election Day, four staffers piled onto an Amtrak train to deliver the goods to Romney headquarters. Given the books' size and weight, the Romney folks didn't dare check them as airplane luggage; hence the train.

The last note about the books is that they were locked in a vault in longtime Romney friend Bob White's office. The contents are still unknown outside the transition team and the book doesn't say where the books ended up.

Photoshop? • Leavitt's transition book also included a bit of clandestine activity in its own right.

On page four of the tome is a picture of Leavitt and Romney shaking hands, except that it's clear the photo was doctored from the original Associated Press image.

Someone, it appears, erased three governors who were photo-bombing the Leavitt-Romney moment. See the original and changed versions at politicalcornflakes.com.

Hatch ads • Sen. Orrin Hatch's immigration reform fence-sitting has attracted more TV ads in Utah.

NumbersUSA, a group that wants to reduce, not increase, immigration, is on the air with a $60,000 campaign warning the reform bill in the Senate would give millions of unauthorized immigrants work permits, when many Americans are still having trouble finding steady employment.

Roy Beck, the group's president, picked 16 states for the ad campaign, targeting places with at least one undecided senator, hoping that TV watchers will nudge them to oppose the bill.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, already plans to vote against the measure, while Hatch's position is more complicated. He voted in favor of the bill in the committee, but said he may eventually oppose it if the Senate doesn't make some changes involving taxes and welfare programs.

In late April, a pro-reform group led by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, ran ads in the state touting the bill as a conservative remedy, heavy on border security.

With so much at stake for so many interest groups, don't be surprised to see more political campaigns in prime time.

When your A/C breaks • When Gov. Gary Herbert testified recently before a House Natural Resources subcommittee, only a few members of Congress showed up to hear the testimony. And several of those who did were junior members of the panel with seats on the far-flung ends of the dais.

Thinking it looked a little odd, Utah Rep. Rob Bishop invited the newbies to come in closer to the chairman.

"I know the air conditioning is broken in my apartment but I didn't think I was that bad," Bishop joked.

A few members moved; a few stayed put.

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Burr and Canham report from Washington, D.C.

tburr@sltrib.com

mcanham@sltrib.com