WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney's campaign manager lashed out Thursday at a top adviser to Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick for providing embarrassing information to the press about actions taken by Romney staff during his time as governor.
Matt Rhoades, the usually low profile campaign manager for Romney, sent a forcefully worded letter to Patrick reprimanding his legal counsel, Mark Reilly, for speaking with the Boston Globe about deleted e-mails and the purchase by former Romney aides of computer hard drives that they used while working for the state.
"It is evident that your office has become an opposition research arm of the Obama reelection campaign," Rhoades harangued Patrick. "The latest example occurred yesterday when your chief legal counsel, Mark Reilly, in the absence of a legitimate public records request, supplied The Boston Globe with copies of cancelled checks from 2006 documenting the lawful purchase of computer equipment by departing members of the Romney administration."
Rhoades, in a copy of the letter sent to the press by the Romney campaign, called it "a weak attempt to disparage practices that you know were in complete compliance with the law."
The Romney campaign said the letter also served as a Freedom of Information Request seeking "copies of all email correspondence, phone logs, and visitor logs showing contacts that his office has had with David Axelrod, David Plouffe and Jim Messina."
Mark Reilly, chief legal counsel in the governor's office, wrote in response to the HuffPost Thursday, "We have fulfilled over 250 public records requests in our five years in office and we will be happy to fulfill this one."
Axelrod, Plouffe and Messina are all top advisers to Obama who are key to his reelection effort. Axelrod left the White House earlier this year to focus on helping the president get reelected. Plouffe remains at the White House in an official capacity but managed Obama's 2008 campaign. And Messina is the current Obama campaign manager.
The communiqué by Rhoades is a sign that the Romney campaign sees the Globe story as potentially damaging. They are a disciplined campaign and the deployment of Rhoades is essentially the use of heavy artillery to strike back, an attempt to put Patrick on the defensive and shift attention from the original storyline.
The Globe story made clear that the deletion of e-mails and the purchase of old hard drives was likely not a violation of state law, but quoted the Democratic secretary of state and a spokesman for a liberal-leaning good governance group as saying the actions violated the spirit of the law.
All together, 11 former Romney aides bought 17 hard drives for $65 each. The remaining computers were replaced, and the server was wiped clean, according to the Globe story.
Romney was governor of Massachusetts from 2002 to 2006, but did not seek reelection. Patrick came into office after Romney, and won reelection last fall to a second term.
Rhoades' letter to Patrick sought to put the onus on the current governor, a Democrat who is close to Obama, to prove that Reilly's actions were not improper or illegal.
"As you know, state law strictly prohibits you and your staff from using public resources for political campaign purposes. Under state law, a public employee may not provide services to a candidate or campaign during his or her work hours," Rhoades wrote.
He closed this way: "The people of Massachusetts deserve to know that you are focused on alleviating joblessness -- not running a dirty tricks shop for your friend, President Obama."
Patrick's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.