Washington (CNN) - Mitt Romney's latest campaign nightmare started four months ago. Hard as it is to believe, sometimes the stormiest campaign controversies take a while to make their way into the maelstrom.
On May 17th, at a fund-raiser in Boca Raton, Florida attended by donors who paid $50,000 a plate, Romney was asked how he's going to convince voters that they need to take care of themselves – instead of relying on the government. In one of those unvarnished moments, which high-rolling donors pay a lot of money to witness, Romney said nearly half the American electorate will vote for President Obama, no matter what. But he didn't stop there, and Mitt Romney may wish he had the next few seconds back.
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"There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government," Romney said, "...who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing."
At the same event, Romney also said the Palestinians don't want a two-state solution, and joked that he'd have a better chance at the White House if he had been born to Latino parents. But it was the "47 percent" remark which analysts say could be very damaging to Romney's campaign.
Romney quickly called a news conference after the video, and an accompanying article, were posted Monday on the website of the liberal magazine Mother Jones. Romney defended the message, saying the election is a choice between big government and personal responsibility.
But he acknowledged, "It's not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I'm speaking off the cuff in response to a question, and I'm sure I can state it more clearly, in a more effective way."
How did a videotape made four months ago become something so potentially damaging to Romney's campaign?
Parts of the video were posted in drips and drabs at first, mainly as blurry video and audio-files, on YouTube. In mid-August, the 'Mother Jones' reporter, David Corn, was put in touch with the source, the person who Corn says videotaped Romney and posted it online. Corn won't reveal who that source is. By last week, Corn verified the videotape was legitimate, then posted it this week on Mother Jones. This account was given to CNN by Corn himself.
The middleman who got Corn together with the source: James Carter IV, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter. David Corn says Carter had done research for him in the past. On his Twitter account, Carter describes himself as an "oppo researcher," "political junkie… currently looking for work."
"I've been doing this pretty much full time", Carter told CNN's Anderson Cooper, "..and I guess I do it for work and also for fun, so if someone would pay me for it that would be great."
"He obviously has his own agenda and - trying to damage the Romney campaign and without James Carter IV, this clearly wouldn't have happened," says Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" and Washington bureau chief for 'The Daily Beast.'
David Corn says the person who videotaped Romney told him they weren't affiliated with any campaign, and didn't go in with the intent to infiltrate the Romney camp.
The fund-raiser who hosted the event in Florida is Marc Leder. The Sunlight Foundation, a campaign finance watchdog group which focuses on fund-raisers, says Leder has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates from both major parties.
"He's with a company called Sun Capital. I think they've managed about eight billion dollars worth of investments. So he comes from the same industry. Actually that's how he got into private equity, from meeting Mitt Romney", says Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation.
CNN called and e-mailed Leder repeatedly, to ask who the person was who videotaped Romney at his home. We also wanted to know who else was at the fund-raiser. Leder's representative would only issue a statement acknowledging that he hosted a fund-raiser "for a friend" in May.
CNN has also repeatedly tried to get the Romney campaign to say who they think videotaped Governor Romney that night. We have gotten no response.