Romney got $1.5b in subsidies for the Salt Lake Olympics

Incomparable corporate subsidy reporters Donald Barlett and James Steele have tallied up the taxpayer dollars that went to the 2002 Winter Olympics, and come up with:

Many records were set at the 2002 Winter Games, but chances are that one will never be broken. That’s the amount of federal dollars that Romney and his crew siphoned out of the federal treasury to help pay for the Olympic games: $1.5 billion. That was more than the federal government had spent on all seven Olympic Games held in the U.S. since 1904—combined. In inflation-adjusted dollars…

With the help of Utah’s congressional delegation, Romney’s Salt Lake Olympic committee pried federal dollars out of more than three dozen agencies on an unprecedented scale: $500 million for highways, bridges, roads and interchanges; $30 million for parking lots; $25 million for buses; $11 million for infectious-disease monitoring, food inspection, and medical response; $2 million to house the media; $1 million for a weather forecasting system; and several hundred thousand dollars to plant new trees in and around Salt Lake City—to name only a few of the goodies.

That’s not actually all that unusual for the Olympics — massive public subsidies for the Games are a given — but it’s notable here because the guy in charge of the Salt Lake City Olympics is now running for some public office or something. And is running on a platform of cutting government spending, though not actually government spending on stuff that helps rich people and corporations.

Barlett and Steele note:

When we asked Romney in 2001 how he could justify the record flow of federal dollars to one community to stage the Olympics, he accused us of writing a “ridiculous” article and said, “Do you realize this is just an absurd bogus approach?”

No comment so far today from the Romney camp. He must not read Deadspin — which is a shame, because it means he also missed out on the best explanation of the NHL lockout I’ve seen so far.


5 comments on “Romney got $1.5b in subsidies for the Salt Lake Olympics

  1. “…massive public subsidies for the Games are a given…”

    More than that, the IOC pretty much insists on substantial government subsidies. They’re particularly keen on seeing guarantees from the unlimited federal level checkbook. They don’t want local governments to run out of cash and start eliminating any gold plating. And they don’t want the organizing committees looking to the corporate community to help build things – the IOC wants to keep those contributions flowing to them.

    International sports federations make the NFL, MLB, NBA look like the most benevolent of dictatorships.

  2. Having just been to SLC last month on vacation, I can attest to the freshness of its infrastructure. Apart from the actual sporting venues like up at Park City, the thing that bureaucrats will point to and say “we built that!” are the myriad interchanges, interstate highway miles, traffic flow upgrades, etc and insist that the community as a whole would not have done so otherwise. And maybe that is true, seeing as how most of transportation funding comes from federal coffers to begin with…

    Being in the transportation engineering industry, I see a lot of how federal monies work in this field. But my knowledge of economics tells me that any lauding by the feds about things like this not existing without their help is almost 100% bogus. The question I’m always left with is this: if money wasn’t sequestered by the government from individuals and inappropriately allocated to pet projects and general projects alike, then how would the world in which we live look? No doubt that the infrastructure upgrades in SLC for the Olympics provided for that city. But how did those upgrades spur on negative growth (ie, unsustainable, irrational, and non-market-derived) in the area, too? Perhaps the city would’ve taken an altogether different approach to growth had they been let to their own organic devices rather than influenced by blood money by the state and federal governments.

  3. What was “pried” out of the feds would have happened by local pols and the head of SLOOC regardless of whether it was Romney or not.
    Much of this was set up before Romney came on board after the bribery scandal and there was not much he could do to to reverse the $$$ flow even if he had wanted to.
    These kinds of expenditures make selling the Games in US difficult in the future.
    Wasn’t as if all that was spent on in SLC was rolled was rolled up and carted away after the Games ended.

  4. Interstate 15 and Interstate 80 end up in very Democratic California. Lots of jobs for loyal Democratic voters rely on moving products on these roads.

    As for the federally-funded Light Rail, aren’t Democrats constantly saying that our country is falling apart because we don’t spend money on rail projects?

  5. Wes,

    It’s 15 F here in the winter and it’s 100 F here in the summer.

    Our infrastructure is fresh or it’s a pile of gray powder.

    Wikipedia says that Utah has the 8th best life expectancy in the US and it’s 8th best in terms of obesity.

    So maybe spending money on sports facilities did have some quantifiable benefits?