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Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and sports spending: From Olympics to the WWF

Before there was a George Mitchel Report in baseball dealing illegal or banned performance enhancing drug usage there was a George Mitchell report on the Olympics. Mitchell’s 1999 report was loaded with findings that suggested a pattern of improper actions including bribery within the Olympics movement.

The whole business of the International Olympic Committee and the awarding of either a winter or summer festival is at best an inexact science to be polite. But Romney was not involved in the Salt Lake City bid he was brought into the committee in 1999 when the local Olympic committee's ship took on water and nearly capsized the boat.

Romney, according to reports, worked on Washington to get money to right the ship. Arizona Senator John McCain, who recently endorsed Romney, took to the Senate floor in 2000 to rail about how much money the federal government was sending to Salt Lake City.

Understand this about the International Olympic Committee and the awarding of the Olympics:  buyer beware. Once you get it, the IOC makes you responsible for cost overruns. Romney had to play by the IOC's rules and the IOC acts as if it is a sovereign state.

Romney went after earmarks to help bail out the sinking Salt Lake City ship and in a 2000 letter to the General Accounting Office, Romney wrote the Salt Lake games was “a massive undertaking” and "recognizing that our government spends billions of dollars to maintain wartime capability, it is entirely appropriate to invest several hundred million dollars to promote peace.”

John McCain's speech on the Senate floor should be re-read by everyone who ever entertains the idea of hosting and Olympics and dealing with the IOC.

"The Olympic Games supposedly hosted and funded by Salt Lake City, which began in corruption and bribery, has now turned into is an incredible pork-barrel project for Salt Lake City and its environs.”

That is what the Olympics movement is all about and the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics and the enormous debt of hosting the Olympics is being felt to this day in Greece. It took Canada, Quebec and Montreal 30 years to pay down the debt of the 1976 Montreal Summer Games. Canadian tax dollars went to paying the bills.

Romney got the Olympics money or "earmarks" thanks to Utah Republican Senator Robert Bennett. It is estimated that American taxpayers pumped $1.5 billion into the Salt Lake Games, a figure that was increased after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. The military had more boots on the ground in Utah than in Afghanistan at the time.

So sports spending and sports laws have seeped into the 2012 Presidential campaign. It should come as no surprise. Sports and government are partners. Billions of taxpayers’ dollars are spent to keep the sports machine going and favorable sports legislation has enriched the industry whether it was the deregulation of professional wrestling by individual states or Congressional lawmakers helping the Olympics movement.

Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at bickley.com and Amazon.

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