Shortly before Mitt Romney departed the governor’s office, 11 of his top aides purchased 17 state-issued hard drives, purging the Romney administration’s email records in advance of his presidential campaign. In retrospect, the move seems rather odd, especially for a Republican candidate who likes to talk about transparency.

Maybe this was a standard practice for modern Massachusetts governors? Apparently not.

Top aides to the three Massachusetts governors who preceded Mitt Romney – all of them Republicans – said yesterday they know of no instance when state employees purchased their computer hard drive as they left the administration, as 11 of Romney’s aides did in 2006 as he was laying the groundwork for his first presidential campaign.

The aides from the administrations of William F. Weld, Paul Cellucci, and Jane Swift all said they were not aware of such purchases being made previously.

“I don’t remember anybody buying their hard drives. I don’t remember anybody buying anything,” said Stephen P. Crosby, who worked for Romney’s two predecessors and handled the transition between Jane Swift’s outgoing administration and Romney’s incoming one, and who was also co-chairman of Governor Deval Patrick’s budget and finance transition team. “I can’t even remember anybody discussing it. It certainly wasn’t [standard operating procedure] in any way. That’s almost unthinkable. It seems inherently a bad idea. You almost think you’d want to have a record of everything going on for the public.”

Yes, you would almost think that, wouldn’t you.

I’m trying to imagine how to give Romney and his team the benefit of the doubt. I can imagine, for example, someone working in a government office for several years and growing attached to, say, a desk chair. Maybe the chair offered great back support, was really comfortable, and was just the right height, and as the governor’s term was wrapping up, that person may have offered to pay to take that chair home. That seems vaguely plausible.

But Romney would have us believe his entire team grew attached to 17 hard drives — not the computer, not the monitor, not the keyboard, just the hard drive. This allowed them to eliminate untold thousands of email messages — a move with no precedent. What’s more, Romney’s team insists the officials “complied with the law,” but can’t explain why the purchases were made in the first place.

In an apparent attempt at ironic humor, Romney’s team also issued a memo yesterday attacking the Obama White House for having “turned its back on his campaign promises of openness and transparency.”

Nice timing, gang.

The DNC’s Brad Woodhouse joked this morning, “Just imagine if Richard Nixon had been able to buy the White House taping system and walk out with it.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.