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Political Notebook

Romney, aides used private e-mail while he was governor

WASHINGTON - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and some of his top aides used private e-mail accounts to conduct state business at times when Romney was governor of Massachusetts, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. The communications were legal, even though Romney’s own administration warned state agencies against the practice due to cyber security concerns. The state archives in Massachusetts - which learned about Romney’s e-mails from the AP - now says the private e-mails should have invoked rules about preserving copies of state records.

Private e-mail accounts used by public officials to perform their public jobs are effectively off limits to review by citizens, watchdog groups, political opponents, and news organizations because they are often used secretly. Free accounts from commercial providers also are more vulnerable to hackers who exploit easy-to-use features to reset e-mail passwords.

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Romney’s use of a free Microsoft Hotmail account and a private e-mail address linked to his 2008 presidential campaign was revealed in documents the AP obtained under the Massachusetts Public Records Law.

The Romney files, which span four months in mid-2006, represent the first substantive e-mails written by him to surface since he left public office in 2007. When the AP examined dozens of boxes of archived materials last summer in Boston from Romney’s former administration, it found no e-mails or memos written by or to Romney himself.

Some of the e-mails obtained by AP describe Romney’s internal deliberations on his health care policy and the state’s 2006 budget crisis: “I hate appearing as if I am just playing national politics,’’ Romney wrote in November 2006 during sensitive negotiations on state budget cuts, when he was preparing his 2008 presidential campaign. Romney chose to use his full name as his Hotmail username.

The private e-mail accounts raise questions about why Romney and his aides sometimes bypassed Massachusetts’ official communications system - and how many of those e-mails remain and whether they could be disclosed to the public. Late last year, Romney acknowledged that near the end of his governor’s term in 2007 he approved a sweeping purge of executive e-mails from the state government’s computer servers, and the removal of top aides’ hard drives and computers. Romney justified the purge as legal, prompted by privacy worries.

Romney’s presidential campaign declined to explain why Romney and his aides used the private accounts or explain how long and how extensively they used them.

“Governor Romney and his staff complied with the law and followed precedent in the handling of documents in the executive office,’’ campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Obama says more needed to keep recovery going

PETERSBURG, Va. - President Obama spoke encouragingly Friday about the improving economy, including the tentative revival of the manufacturing sector, as he touted his record on a factory floor in this battleground for his reelection campaign.

Speaking to workers at an aircraft-parts manufacturing plant, Obama outlined progress made on his watch in the auto industry and other parts of the economy, holding up a February jobs report that White House officials called encouraging as evidence.

But he also hammered Congress, chiding lawmakers for moving slowly on what he said were important initiatives to improve the economy and educate the future workforce.

“America thrives when we build things better than the rest of the world,’’ he told a friendly audience of nearly 1,500 people here at the Rolls-Royce Crosspointe plant outside Richmond. “I want to make stuff here and sell it over there.’’

Obama spoke on a day when the Labor Department issued another positive employment report, showing that the economy added 227,000 jobs in February.

He used his appearance here Friday to highlight a $1 billion proposal - contained in his budget request now before Congress - to create a nationwide network of 15 institutes for manufacturing innovation.

WASHINGTON POST

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