• With: Mitt Romney

    So -- and there was never a year where I didn't pay a lot of money in taxes. So he was just wrong. I don't know what his source of data was, but it was a...

    CAVUTO: But, obviously, others on your campaign, sir, were leaked.

    I mean, we talked to Frank VanderSloot, of course, a major donor to your campaign. He was subjected to no fewer than three agency audits. He was vindicated on each and all, but he had to pay $80,000, $85,000, I think he was telling me when he was here, in various attorney and accountant fees just to protect his good name.

    ROMNEY: Well, this is a very dangerous and troubling development, the idea that an agency that has our most personal information -- I mean, they know how much money we make, what we make it in, what kind of assets we have, where all of our properties might be. They know everything about us financially. They have all that information, and they have used that information to pursue a political agenda.

    That should be a very frightening thing to people on both sides of the aisle. I know it is. It is a negligent management that has allowed that to occur. It may be worse than negligence. We don't know who all knew about it and who directed it. But it is a violation that the American people will not soon forget. It has to end. And, in my view, we have to put in place a special prosecutor to understand who knew what and how that information was used. And we also need to put in place a structure which says that, in the future, these audits and these -- these inquiries by the IRS or other agencies that carry out various kinds of audits, these things have to be viewed on a nonpartisan, nonpolitical basis, and assure that these institutions aren't pursuing a personal agenda of one kind of or another.

    CAVUTO: Do you think that this goes beyond some rogue agents? I mean, it's 88 now, by last count, who were involved in targeting these conservative groups and individuals. Do you think it gets bigger than that?

    ROMNEY: Well, you know, if you don't have any process in place that is overseeing what agents are doing, you're opening the door for people to misuse data for their own personal political vendettas or for other vendettas.

    And this is what people across this country are afraid of, big government becoming so large and so intrusive that no one can stop it from interfering in our lives and punishing people, without being required to go out into the public and demand that information on a legal basis.

    And, so, you know, how many people knew about this and how far up the ladder it goes, we don't know. That, I think we have to find out. That's why I think we need to have a special counsel, special prosecutor appointed to look at this to find out just who knew. And if it goes...

    CAVUTO: But do we know now, Governor -- I'm sorry, sir, but do we know now, after the fact...

    ROMNEY: Yes. Go ahead.

    CAVUTO: ... that it was stymieing at least conservative groups' efforts and those of groups that were arguing on your behalf, some even said even affecting turnout as a result of these groups being stymied. Do you agree with that?

    ROMNEY: It's infuriating.

    Look, I got to tell you, it's not fun to lose an election, but to hear that the government of the United States, and particularly an agency that has all the information about the American people, was using that power to help defeat me in one way or another, is really quite upsetting, as you can imagine.

    CAVUTO: Do you think it tilted the election?

    ROMNEY: And it's...

    CAVUTO: Do you think it tilted the election?

    ROMNEY: Oh, I don't think there's evidence of enough wrongdoing at this stage to suggest a different outcome would have occurred, but I do believe it's...

    CAVUTO: No, I'm sorry, sir. I wasn't being clear.

    If these groups were not targeted to the degree they were, did it affect their ability to sort of energize the base, or were they so preoccupied -- that was the argument that many conservatives have since argued -- just defending themselves and getting this -- you know, the IRS off their back, that -- that it -- it did affect their ability to get voters out to the polls?

    ROMNEY: Oh, there's no question but that, if some organization was being run through the mill, that they were less able to do the job they put themselves in place to carry out, and therefore it had a chilling effect on their capacity to turn out voters or to pursue the -- the agenda that they might have. Of course, that was the result.

    CAVUTO: Right.

    ROMNEY: But I can tell you that I don't believe it was such a widespread and effective program on the part of the IRS or other agencies that it would have resulted in a different outcome in the election.

    But that is not what is at stake here. What is at stake is, do the American people believe that the information they have is not being misused by the government and that the government is not trampling on our rights as citizens of this country and pursuing an agenda, a political agenda, at the expense of freedom in America?

    CAVUTO: Among the attendees at your event today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

    Now, I know you have addressed the fact that bygones are bygones, and you certainly took no offense to what many in the media described as the governor's bromance with President Obama right after Hurricane Sandy. I know that is your view, but were any in your family -- because I certainly talked to many in your campaign at the time, Governor -- angry at Chris Christie?

    ROMNEY: You know, I can't speak for all the members of my family. I have got 21 grandkids, not to mention my 10 kids and in-laws.

    (LAUGHTER)

    CAVUTO: I'm talking the old -- I'm talking the older ones. I'm talking maybe your wife or your sons.

    ROMNEY: Yes. Yes.

    Well, I take responsibility for myself. And I have been a governor. And I know what happens when there's been a natural disaster. And that is, you look for help from the federal government. You want the president and you want other agencies of the federal government to step in and provide help. And Governor Christie did what he thought was best for the people of his state, and I don't blame him for that at all.

    He was helpful to me in my campaign in every way possible. I consider him a good friend. He has a great future. He has been a terrific governor. He's doing a good job in New Jersey. I have got no ill will.

    CAVUTO: All right, so you don't agree, as some others in your campaign did at the time, that he got a little too chummy with Barack Obama at just the wrong time?

    (LAUGHTER)

    ROMNEY: Well, I can tell you the hurricane didn't come at the right time. That's not because of Chris Christie. That's because one of the advantages of incumbency is that, when there is an event like that, you get to see the president in a fatherly role and showing his sympathy for people who are harmed, who have been victims of a storm. And, obviously, that gives a little boost to the president's efforts. And that's just -- that's just the nature of how our system works and the nature of politics.

    CAVUTO: Yes.

    ROMNEY: And, look, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to go back and try and revisit that.

    The right thing for me to do is to look forward and to say, how can the things I care about, which are helping put people back to work, getting America on track to a balanced budget, fixing our schools, improving our health care system and getting the costs down, how can I do those things from where I sit today?

    CAVUTO: All right, well, you're a big man about that. But I will still be the tacky journalist and follow up with this line of questioning then.

    (LAUGHTER)