Here’s what we know about the covert video taken of Mitt Romney in which he admits to rich donors in plain terms that he’s given up on 47 percent of America: It was filmed on May 17, in the Florida home of private equity manager Marc Leder; portions of it have been floating around on YouTube for at least three months, uploaded by users named “RomneyExposed,” “Rachel Maddow,” and “Anne Onymous”; and eventually, the full version was obtained by Mother Jones reporter David Corn, with Jimmy Carter’s researcher grandson acting as a liaison. What we don’t know is who at the $50,000-per-plate fund-raiser set up a hidden camera, pressed record, and started the clip’s viral spread. But we have some clues.
As an addendum to the video, Mother Jones has published a list of potential Romney donors from in and around Boca Raton that may have been present that night, but it seems unlikely that anyone dropping 50 grand to meet the candidate would have any interest in sharing his comments with a liberal magazine. (Although a disgruntled date can’t be ruled out.) At similar Obama events, all cell phones are confiscated regardless.
What about the event’s caterers and various other staff employed at Leder's home? In the full, unedited video, the filming device is placed on a reflective surface, partially obscured by what look like ice buckets, a candle, and a stack of paper. Romney’s audience can be seen from the back gathered closely around the candidate. Waiters bustle about, presumably under close watch by the Secret Service, who were already guarding Romney. At one point in the clip, a service person gets extremely close to the camera but does not acknowledge its presence.
After the fund-raiser, it took a concerted effort to get the video noticed.
James Carter IV, who first noticed a portion of the video that discussed Bain and Chinese labor, told Daily Intel that he believes the surreptitious videographer was also the person behind the various YouTube and commenter accounts attempting to spread the clips over the last few weeks. The Twitter account @AnneOnymous670 tied to the YouTube channel has kept up with the video's activity but, in YouTube comments and a profile on Daily Kos, shows a special interest not in the 47 percent parts, which have garnered the most attention, but in the Romney remarks about Chinese labor conditions. The accounts' avatar is taken from a book called Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang. (“I have nothing to do with the account,” Chang told Intel.)
Corn, the reporter who went on to publish the full video, believes that the online champion of the video is also its author. “That’s my impression,” he said, while refusing to name his source. “The source that we’ve dealt with was out there trying to put it up in different places without having to reveal too much about his or her identity.”
Initially, the published video was blurred, and the event not identified, to protect the source. “As the story got big,” Corn told the Daily Beast, “some of the earlier agreements I made with the source to try to protect, give him some cover, he freed me from.” (While Corn has used a male pronoun, he told Daily Intel that was unintentional, and he meant “he or she.”) Asked whether or not the source may be itching to come forward for some of the resulting glory, Corn said, “In my last communication with the source, which was recent, the source did not indicate wanting to say anything publicly about this.”
Either way, Corn insisted, the spy is not a James O’Keefe–ish undercover actor: “As far as I’m aware, this person was not affiliated with a political campaign or organization, and did not go looking to infiltrate for the purposes of doing a hit on Mitt Romney. The attitude was more, I’m going to be in a room with a presidential candidate. This should be interesting.”
That’s for sure.
Update: Intel commenter Taxdude makes a compelling case that the bartender did it:
The high gloss, glassy table top is not a banquet table. It's a bar top. Just to the left, there are bar napkins that have been rotated to have a spiral look to their stacking (I worked banquets throughout undergrad for swanky places to pay for school). This is how banquet bartenders place napkins when setting up their portable bars.