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Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Romney's Secret Service Wannabe?

This story has been getting a little wilder as the details come out. First, in a rather amusing campaign analysis of the Mitt Romney's campaign, the New York Times reporter, Mark Liebovich, mentions an encounter with an overbearing staffer:

He travels with an entourage that includes two or three “operations” guys who serve as advance men and a security detail. (Between stops in New Hampshire, this reporter found himself trailing the former governor’s S.U.V. on a back road, only to be led to the shoulder and instructed to “veer off” by a man wearing an earpiece who emerged from Mr. Romney’s car. “We ran your license plate,” he told the reporter, and explained that no one was permitted to follow Mr. Romney’s vehicle.)

Sounds like Secret Service men doesn't it? But it turns out that's not the case, because Romney doesn't yet have Secret Service protection. He's got rentacops playing Secret Service.

It turns out that Romney maintained as governor an Office of Operations that was sort of informal secret service for the governor. Here’s a description of his operation from a 2005 Boston Herald article:

Some office staff, who all wear LXX pins, fashion themselves as U.S. Secret Service agents, referring to Romney in their earpieces and audio-equipped wrist pieces as "70" - similar to the way the Secret Service agents identify President Bush as "43" because he is the 43rd president.

Romney is the 70th governor of Massachusetts, to answer the obvious question. However, as he is now a private citizen, I assume that these guys are now on the campaign's payroll. It turns out that Jay Garrity, who either waved over the NY Times' reporter or was in charge of those who did, is something of a police wannabe:

A top aide to Gov. Mitt Romney was cited last week for tooling around with illegal police equipment in his private car - from lights and sirens to batons and heavily tinted windows.

Romney’s director of operations, Jay A. Garrity, had parked the car illegally in the North End and police ordered it towed.

Police discovered a set of red-and-blue flashing lights hidden in the grill - equipment for which Garrity has no permit.

Cops also found a siren and public address system, multiple police radios, strobe lights on the wheels, a police baton and a metal plate with a photo of a state police patch that said “official business.'’

Garrity's the guy with the coffee cup; the other two gentlemen are former Mass. Governor William Weld and former Senator Jim Talent. (See update below; Talent has the coffee cup. Thanks to commenter Rachel for the correction)

Of course the story doesn't stop there. Romney's campaign issued a semi-denial:

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's campaign denies a report that security aides pulled over a New York Times reporter trailing the former governor's caravan in New Hampshire, checked his license plates and told him to leave.

Liebovich pointed out that he never claimed that they'd actually run his plates, just that the rent-a-cop told him that they'd run the plates:

“As we reported, I was instructed to veer off, which to me is the same as telling someone to leave,” Leibovich said in an interview. “I obviously cannot speak to whether they ran my license plate or not. I can only speak to what the person told me he was doing.”

Incidentally, Garrity is reportedly 29 years old.

A personal aside: When I was in college, I worked for several years at a drive-in movie theater as a rampman, essentially a security guard. One summer they hired this guy named Mike to work with me. He was a big BS'er, talking about his experiences in 'Nam until the day we hired an actual veteran, at which point he suddenly lost interest in the topic. But he was also a cop wannabe, and a royal pain in the neck to work with.

For example, one Friday night it was getting late and there were only a couple of cars left in the theater, so I hopped in the car, unlocked the back gate, and picked up a sixpack of beer at a nearby liquor store. I then unlocked the back gate again and started driving in, when Mike pops out of the bushes and yells, "Halt!" Of course, Sherlock couldn't figure out that the only person who could open the back gate was somebody with a key.

So I have a pretty good image of Garrity in my mind.

Update: My bad on the id of Garrity; the guy with the coffee cup is Talent. Garrity is on the far right, almost too dark to make out in the original photo, so I've adjusted the Gamma a bit:

Thanks to commenter Rachel for the correction!

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