This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," January 12, 2006, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, is it time for the GOP to get its house in order? My next guest says, yes, that new leadership is needed to clean up ethics controversies, like the Jack Abramoff scandal.
With us now, the governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.
Governor, good to have you.
GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.: Thanks, Neil. Good to be with you.
CAVUTO: I want to first, if you don't mind, sir, talk a little bit about the Alito fallout for Democrats. Bad?
ROMNEY: Oh, I think it's bad for Democrats, but I think, frankly, as you looked at those hearings, you came away saying that, when it comes to integrity, character, intelligence, capability, we are glad we have people like Alito that are willing to serve in our judiciary.
And, sometimes, we wish the people we elected as politicians could measure up to those that they grill across the table. I thought Judge Alito and his wife showed real character and class. And I think some of the politicians ended up looking weaker by virtue of the exchange.
Some of them are so weak already, it's not going to hurt them a lot. But you know, I think it was a good day for Judge Alito, a good day for America, and a reminder that we are lucky to have people of that character that are willing to serve in our judiciary.
CAVUTO: Governor, meanwhile, you got some in the Republican Party a little ticked off by your welcoming Tom DeLay stepping down from the House leadership post, and hinting that others who are also under questionable ethics, or charges to that effect, should also step down. Who else were you talking about?
ROMNEY: Well, I mentioned that Chairman Ney is someone who should also step aside. And it's not because...
CAVUTO: You're talking about Bob Ney of Ohio. But go ahead.
It's not because Tom DeLay can, at this stage, be shown to have done something illegal. It's rather that they are at the top of the one of the most important institutions in our nation. It's looked at by our citizens and by the world as representing our country.
And when a shadow falls over an institution like that because of their leadership, it's incumbent on them to say, I'm going to step aside, and let the institution move on. And if, after it's all over, there is an exoneration, why, then, they can get back into the mix of things. But when there's this kind of shadow, you have got to step aside.
CAVUTO: I understand, sir. But, Governor, is that fair, where you have a country where you are innocent until proven guilty? Neither of these gentlemen have been convicted of anything. I mean, if there is a cloud over anyone, according to your theory, you just get out.
ROMNEY: Well, you know, you have to make a judgment.
And the case that we have seen over the past several days, with Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon and others, it is apparent that there has been at least a perception that money has more influence in Washington today than it ever has.
I think a lot of folks felt that, with campaign finance reform, that this was all going to get better. It seems to be getting worse. Money is in deeper shadows and deeper corners. And, as a result of that, in order to restore confidence in the institution and in my party, in our country, some leaders need to step aside. And that is what I proposed. And I think Tom DeLay did exactly that. I think he did the right thing.
CAVUTO: Have you heard from Tom DeLay? Has he called you up and said, thanks a lot, pal?
ROMNEY: Well, no. Tom DeLay made the decision on his own. And he reached that conclusion. I thought he did the right thing. And I respect him for that.
He didn't stand up and say, innocent until proven guilty. He said, look, I'm a leader. People look to me as a leader. As long as there is a cloud, I'm going to get out of the way. And, down the road, you know, Tom DeLay can come back, once that has been cleared up.
CAVUTO: All right. You don't buy the talk that he was kind of pushed into that decision?
ROMNEY: I don't know how he made the decision.
But I know that, sometimes, decisions like that are hard to make. I never questioned all the people that got involved in the process. He did the right thing in the end. Ultimately, it was his choice.
CAVUTO: You know, this Abramoff tentacle scandal, if you will, spreads wide and far, sir, even to you; $500,000 that had made its way to contributions to your office, you have since disbursed into charity relief, I believe hurricane relief. But how far does this spread?
ROMNEY: Well, first, let me set the record straight. It doesn't connect to me, because this all occurred before I was even a governor.
But I have recently been named head of the Republican Governors Association. And it turns out that, several years ago, again, before I was governor, 2002, contributions were received by Mr. Scanlon for half-a- million dollars. It was legal when it was received. It's legal for the Republican Governors Association to keep it now.
But I decided, under the same spirit of making sure that we restore the perception and the reality and integrity in our institutions, I said, look, we are not going to keep that money. We are going to contribute that money to disaster relief associated with the hurricane.
This is a very unusual case. But, again, our political institutions require the kinds of actions that could assure people that we're standing by the highest standards of ethical conduct.
CAVUTO: You are referring to Michael Scanlon, who was Abramoff's business partner.
But do you know of any other monies that might have made their way to the Governors Association or to governors themselves, and that you might have to revisit this again and give more money to charity or whatever?
ROMNEY: I'm not aware of any additional funds.
The contribution that was made by Mr. Scanlon's firm is something that was brought to our attention yesterday. I got on the phone immediately with Governor Perdue of Georgia. He and I talked about it and said, you know, even though our lawyers tell us we are entirely within our rights to keep the money, we did nothing wrong in receiving it, it's entirely legal, the right thing to do is to give it back and to make sure that people who deserve it get it.
CAVUTO: Governor, do you think this whole Abramoff thing is going to be a big issue for governors who you hope to elect in November and the midterm elections themselves?
ROMNEY: I don't think it has any impact for governors to speak of, because governors weren't part of the Abramoff scandal.
I think it has a big impact on Congress. I think the concern on the part of the country is that money is having more of a voice in Congress. Influence-peddling is alive and well in Washington. I think they want to see a change. And I believe that, you know, unless the Republican Party takes pretty dramatic action to clear its own house and to restore its confidence, you're going to see that we would suffer as a result.
CAVUTO: OK, Governor Mitt Romney, thank you, sir. Always good having you on.
ROMNEY: Thanks, Neil.
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