One month later, Romney again used the Hotmail address to revise an editorial he was writing. "Hi team," he wrote to then-press aide Eric Fehrnstrom, now a campaign strategist, along with several other top staffers. "Here's another crack at the op ed. Thanks to Eric for the draft from which I stole much. And apologies to Eric for rewriting so much. You know how I am. Best, Mitt."
The emails show that Fehrnstrom also communicated on state business at times from a private email account. So did former Romney chief of staff Beth Myers, now a senior campaign aide, as well as former aide Cindy Gillespie, now a Romney campaign fundraiser.
Many of the newly released emails were written to and from Thomas Trimarco, a former state administration and finance chief whose electronic files were among the few accounts not deleted during the records purge under Romney. Alex Zaroulis, a spokeswoman for the state administration and finance office, said her department has so far identified 3,500 Trimarco emails and was searching for more.
Trimarco told the AP that he left his email and other electronic documents in his state computer because, "I considered them state records and they belonged to the state." He said he was not told about the erasure of files authorized by Romney "probably because I wasn't part of his inner circle. He was my boss, but I wasn't part of his executive staff."
The AP sent emails to each of Romney's private accounts and those of his former aides. Both Romney's accounts appeared to be operative, but he did not reply. A Microsoft spokeswoman said Hotmail accounts are closed after 270 days of inactivity and incoming emails sent afterward are rejected as undeliverable. Neither of Romney's accounts bounced messages back to the AP.
Messages to Nielsen and Gillespie bounced, and there were no replies from Fehrnstrom and Myers. Trimarco acknowledged he occasionally used a now-defunct private account for state business but stuck to his official computer "almost exclusively."
In one instance, an email sent to Romney's official governor's email account was returned from his private address. In August 2006, Trimarco told Romney that he and other state officials had pressed members of an influential health care "Connector" board to approve higher rates for poor patients but ended up compromising on lower rates. The next morning, Romney replied from his campaign account, praising Trimarco for cutting the deal.
"Tom, congrats on moving the ball forward," Romney wrote.
A heightening battle with the Massachusetts Legislature over the state budget was a consuming issue. After the Democratic-dominated legislature used a state "rainy day" surplus account for $425 million in spending, Romney told Fehrnstrom in a June email from his Hotmail account that "I'd like to get the message out that what they are doing is a huge departure from fiscal discipline and that if we go down that road, big problems -- like deep cuts to local aid, education and higher taxes — are sure to follow."
Romney vetoed the surplus spending that month, but the Legislature overrode his veto.
By November, intent on finding an offsetting $425 million in appropriations cuts, Romney wrote Fehrnstrom from his campaign email account that he was considering negotiations but inclined toward a budget battle that would "let the fur fly." Romney wrote that "this is about getting spending under control for the state and a new administration."
Romney ordered $425 million in cuts that month, slashing medical, social service, education and public works programs. But he backtracked on some reductions because of public concerns.
Deval Patrick, the incoming governor, restored most of the cuts.