September 18th, 2012
07:53 PM ET
2 years ago

'Anatomy of a leak' of the Mitt Romney video

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.

Also see:

- Eastwood: If they were 'dumb enough to ask me…'

- In new tape, Romney casts doubt on peace in Israel

- Obama camp wastes no time highlighting Romney tapes

- Hatch might 'die before his term' ends, opponent charges

- Biden on Romney tape: 'words speak for themselves'


Filed under: 2012 • Fundraising • Mitt Romney
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. Askmehow

    Perhaps a little too much wine at a lavish dinner in Long Lake Estates Boca Raton, Florida. There is nothing like turning the water to wine.

    September 18, 2012 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Romney disdain for the less fortunate is so appalling. He should be thankful that he has money, hope someday he experience the other of the wheel of life then he will understand what it meant to be hopelessly poor. Why doesn't he released his tax return before he criticize other about not paying tax. I had been paying 35% all my working life, but I don't complain. I am just glad I was making enough that I have to pay tax.

    September 18, 2012 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  3. 100 % ETHIO

    When it Roams, it leaks.

    September 18, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  4. Anonymus

    By saying this Romney show that he does not have it to become a president. This is a statement from a business man not a president of a country. No matter what the other 47% are, they are still 47 percent of people living in country. I tried to consider Romney many times, but I think this is the last straw.

    There are abuses in the welfare system, but we cannot remove the welfare just because there are abuses in it. There are people who really need this welfare. What is needed is to eliminate abuses.

    September 18, 2012 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  5. shane4756

    Even if everything he said were true, it shows a hidden reluctance to serve the general public, Many conservatives also fall into that 47% of freeloaders. The president has to serve the whole country, not just those that meet his threshold ideals of character and wealth. What next, a final solution for us under performers that make up that 47%? Financial cleansing?

    September 18, 2012 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  6. Captain Obvious

    If you're saying one thing to the American public and another to donors behind closed doors, you're not fit to be President of the United States.

    September 18, 2012 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  7. Letter to Mr. Romney

    Sir, you are a disgrace to America. It is a sordid image: you with a group of similarly privileged people disparaging a half of the country. You have the nerve to preach about entrepreneurial spirit, of opportunity, of true and honest work – you were handed down that opportunity already made created for you.

    Sir, have you no shame? Your father was chairman and president of American Motors Corporation, Governor of Michigan, and the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. You were offered on a platter all the things you urge the people of America to obtain through honest and sustained work – do you realize the magnitude of your grotesque advice?

    September 18, 2012 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  8. Fact

    Actually Romney's comments sound like the mindset of a bully. Nobody likes a bully.

    September 18, 2012 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  9. Wake up People!

    What difference does it make how it came out? The point is THIS is the REAL MITT ROBMEY. He said exactly what he meant.

    My goodness haven't the media covered up for him enough this election?? You refuse to let the real story about Bain come out, completely look over the fact that he refuses to release his taxes. He and Ryan lie through their teeth but you never fact check them. If the truth were to come out about the real Willard, maybe so many will stop voting against their own interests.

    This guy is an idiotic buffoon that doesn't belong anywhere the White House.

    September 18, 2012 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  10. bgates

    Pretty obvious who taped the fundraiser–looks to be the Hispanic service staff working the event.

    September 18, 2012 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  11. Louden Swain

    He said it the way it is. I back him.

    September 18, 2012 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  12. Edgar Allen Poe

    Where's your tax records, "Mitt"? If that's even your real name, it sounds made up

    September 18, 2012 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  13. Sunshine100

    Romney was born in Mexico. Have to be a U.S. Citizen (not naturalized) to be President of the U.S.A. Who is the official that checks presidential candidate's eligibility? I ask, IS Romney a valid candidate? If he was born in Mexico – a foreign country, show the voters the paperwork that makes him eligible to be President! I say he's a Mexican and ineligible to be President. In fact, if there is no such paperwork, ICE should take action and send Romney back over the border along with all the other illegal immigrants. At least President Obama has a legitimate, state-issued birth certificate. Where's Romney?

    September 18, 2012 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  14. Al

    After all the shocking things about Obama, his "gods and guns" remark, being caught deriding Israel when he thought his mic was off, getting caught again telling the Russians he'll be more flexible after the elections, the snafu telling the police they "acted stupidly", and not to mention sitting in a racist anti-semetic church for 20 years, we're supposed to be all up in arms over Romney saying this? I'm no big fan of mittens, but if you can't see how corrupt and in the tank for Obama the media is, then you are either blind or willfully ignorant.

    September 18, 2012 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  15. debra johnson

    A snake will always rear his ulgy head if you keep jabbing at him. This is just what you will get if you put a ilresponsible person over our beautful country.what happen to public servants that are for the people by the people. The republican party think this is all a game and they have a right to do and say anything to keep the rich rich!

    September 18, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  16. frazzledchick

    That video exposes who Romney is and what he really thinks of the people in this country. How much more of his lack of compassion and ignorance does anyone need to see or hear to know that he would be the worst possible person to be President? He has no respect for anyone but his own wealthy, elitist, racist, out-of-touch ilk. The nerve of someone who was born on third base but acting as though he hit a triple. He has no idea what the people of this country are going through and he never will. Unless fate steps in and knocks him off his pedestal.

    September 19, 2012 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  17. yogi

    It is irrelevant who taped Romney talking unscripted, but it really shows how completely out of touch this man is with the every day life of the average person, and the lack of empathy he has for the middle class.
    Romney has not come up with any specific plan to create jobs, simply because he has absolutely no idea how to do that.
    Over the decades the GOP has shown a serious incompetency in governing. The republicans are more interested in putting civilization in reverse by putting the religious fanatics behind the pulpit in the political arena, and by their obscene desire to money first, people whenever.
    Let's continue the course with diligence, dignity and vison: Obama four more years.

    September 19, 2012 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  18. frazzledchick

    That video exposes who Romney really is. What more do the American people need to see and hear to know that Romney would be the worst possible choice for President? His lack of compassion and ignorance has made this election a joke. He has no feelings for anyone other than his own wealthy, racist, extremist, out-of-touch ilk. His complete disdain for half of the US population is disturbing and frightening. Yet, many of those who falls within the 47%, will march in lock-step to the polls and vote for a man and a philosophy who has convinced them that Obama is the anti-Christ. Why, because they have such a rabid hatred for a man whose only crime, in their eyes, is the fact that he's trying to help those who need help the most and he has the wrong complexion. It rubs those bigoted cretins the wrong way that the President and First Lady are intelligent, well-educated people with a strong, stable marriage with two beautiful daughters. It's not suppose to be that way with an African American family or for African Americans period. They have been indoctrinated for decades that African Americans are the lowest form of human. And Romney is playing that card to the max whether the American wants to acknowledge that or not.

    September 19, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  19. Listening

    The issue I have here is its dirty. If this was done to Obama, CNN's crack staff would be searching high and low for who leaked it. But because its Romney, they settle for "well the person wants to be anonymous". Wow-since when has the media ever just left it at that. Not to mention, this tape is the top 4 stories on the site. Isn't there another embassy shooting? How does that stay in fine print. Messy Media.

    September 19, 2012 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  20. normajean @ verizon ,com

    We, the voters have been saying for months that Romney never knows when to shut up and when he starts talking he puts BOTH feet in his mouth!!!! Well, looks like he may have done it just once too often this time!!!..There isn't much more to say except that this isn't going away and it may float around briefly but when it lands...it will be a hard landing!!!!!!!

    September 19, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  21. Homer10

    Romney just called the election. He's getting only 47%. I think he's going to get a lot less.

    September 19, 2012 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  22. The Thinker

    Its obvious that one of the scorned republican presidential candidates whom Romney snubbed and berated was behind this. They had the access to this event, and have the motive to destroy him.

    September 19, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  23. allenwoll

    No money being put down NOW on Ro-Money ! ! !

    There is Big-Foot and there is Big-Mouth ! . Heh, heh !

    Ro-Money : 99 and 47/100 % rubbish ! . What a duck ! !

    September 19, 2012 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  24. Albert

    "Those people". Need I say more?

    September 19, 2012 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  25. schema

    What Romney said reflects the concern of many – an increasing percentage, now hovering well over 50% for some demographic groups – cannot survive without substnatial assistance and various handouts, all paid for by those who often work 40+ hours a week or multiple jobs. We are becoming Venezuala, where class and race warfare wins votes while a diminishing proportion are first vulgarized and then asked to dig even deeper for those who freeload. Over 160 years ago a great civil war was fought and over 600,000, almost exclusively young white men, died. Now, 160 years later, far too many are willingly running back to the plantation, where the food and shelter is ok but the personal freedom is lost. As the modern anti-JFK mantra now goes "ask not what you can do for your country but what your country can do for you."

    September 19, 2012 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
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