Mitt Romney Inc.: The White House That Never Was

Behind the scenes of the Romney administration that might have been

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In the months before the 2012 election, a group of high-powered consultants and political operatives prepared a secret report for candidate Mitt Romney, explaining how he should take over and restructure the federal government should he win the presidency.

“The White House staff is similar to a holding company” read one PowerPoint slide, which would have been presented to President-elect Romney as part of an expansive briefing on the morning after Election Day. It went on to list three main divisions of the metaphorical firm: “Care & Feeding Offices,” like speechwriting, “Policy Offices,” like the National Security Council, and “Packaging & Selling Offices,” like the office of the press secretary. This was the view of the Presidency Romney would have brought with him to Washington, a glimpse of the White House that never was — and plan that never saw the light of day.

But now the secret is out. On May 29, the Romney Readiness Project, the Republican candidate’s transition organization known as R2P,  published a 138-page report detailing how it prepared for a potential Romney victory. It is the product of a team of nearly 500, who labored in Washington and around the country to be ready to help Romney assume the reins of power on January 20th, 2013, in accordance with the Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act of 2010.

Romney slide

The non-profit R2P, Inc., chaired by former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt and run by former General Motors chief financial officer Christopher Liddell, benefited from free rent and other federal support, and drew heavily from the business and consulting community Romney, a former consultant and private equity executive, knew so well.

Among the recommendations for the Romney administration:

  • Corporate-style training seminars were planned for appointees and nominees before the inauguration to teach management skills.
  • A plan to restructure White House operations to suit Romney’s corporate management style, with clear deliverables.
  • Detailed flow charts delineating how information and decisions were disseminated through the administration to achieve “unity.”
  • Plans to evaluate Cabinet secretaries’s performance by “systematically assessing the efforts of their departments in contributing to [Romney’s] priorities and objectives, perhaps by a newly created  “deputy chief of staff for Cabinet oversight.”

More than 100 detailed one-page project management sheets were in circulation at R2P headquarters by Election Day, charting the organization’s progress and preparing for the run-up to inauguration. Movements for Romney, his wife Ann, and Vice President-elect Paul Ryan were heavily choreographed for the days following the election, and many campaign staffers were told to prepare to assume roles on the transition immediately following a victory. (All were guaranteed a job on either the transition or the inaugural committee.) A painstakingly prepared seating chart and floor plan was developed for Romney, his aides, and transition staff across three floors of the Mary E. Switzer Building in downtown Washington, ready for the rapid post-election expansion.

R2P also prepared a detailed plan for Romney’s first 200 days in office—a list including preparations to repeal Obamacare, develop a tax reform plan, and roll back federal regulations, all in accordance with the Romney campaign’s policy agenda and his campaign promises.

Even before the election, hundreds of staffers held table-top practice drills to game out how they would parachute into federal agencies to learn the ropes and explore policies and procedures for the new administration to change. Another team would work in “the bunker,” a secure room in the federal office building housing the transition where potential Cabinet and senior staff nominees and appointees were vetted. By Election Day, nearly 20 researchers and lawyers had prepared Romney to select his entire Cabinet and more than 25 senior White House staffers, as well as deputies for key departments and agency heads.

More than 20,000 pages of vetting material had been gathered awaiting Romney’s sign-off—so many documents that they had to be transported to Boston from the transition’s Washington, D.C. headquarters by train since they wouldn’t fit in the overhead compartments on the US Airways shuttle.  (The documents were deemed too sensitive to put in checked luggage).

But ultimately it was all for naught, and the report now only a potential blueprint for the 2016 presidential nominees. A White House spokesman did not respond when asked if Obama’s team had reviewed the transition report for ideas for the second term.

The full slideshow outlining proposed restructuring of the Romney White House follows below:

PHOTOS: On the Campaign Trail with Romney