This article was written with Jillian Anthony
The man who implored Mitt Romney to leave Bain Capital and save the Olympics is now planning the GOP nominee’s potential presidency as a top personal adviser. But Mike Leavitt, recently named to head Romney’s transition team, may still be haunted by questions concerning his own role in the Olympic bribery scandal that brought them together more than a decade ago.
Back then, Leavitt was governor of Utah and at the center of the scandal threatening the 2002 Salt Lake City winter games and the Beehive State. “America needs you,” he recalled telling Romney, a fellow Mormon, in a telephone conversation when he called upon the leveraged buyout titan to “turnaround” the image of the Salt Lake City Olympics. (Turnaround ultimately became the title of Romney’s first book.)
When the bribes and other crimes surrounding Salt Lake’s bid for the games became public — and the Justice Department issued a multi-count felony indictment of bribery and racketeering charges against bid leaders Tom Welch and David Johnson — top Utah Republican legislators said they knew of gifts and scholarships given to International Olympic Committee members a year before the public found out about the scheme. But the governor claimed he knew nothing about those dubious payments.