Bain Capital founder Mitt Romney received an unwelcome surprise Monday evening after secretly recorded footage of candid comments made at a private fundraiser were leaked to the press.
The footage, which has been widely reported to have been taken from an event at the home of Sun Capital Partners co-founder Marc Leder, includes comments that indicate Romney thinks almost half of Americans believe themselves to be “victims” who rely on government entitlement programmes for support. Mother Jones, a left-of-center publication, broke the story.
Leder didn't quite confirm that Romney made the statements at his fundraiser, but said: “I hosted a fundraiser for an old friend in May. I believe all Americans should have the opportunity to succeed, to improve their lives, and to build even better lives for their children. I have supported people from both political parties who share this view and make it a priority, even though their ideas on how to achieve it may differ.”
In addition to his comments on entitlements, the video also includes Romney’s description of an investment he was considering in a large Chinese factory “in my private equity days”.
“As we were walking through this facility, seeing the number of hours they worked per day, the pittance they earned, living in dormitories with … with little bathrooms at the end of maybe 10, 10 room, rooms. And the rooms they had 12 girls per room,” he said.
There are 47% of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. Alright, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims …
“The Bain partner I was with turned to me and said, you know, 95 percent of life is settled if you are born in America. This is … an amazing land and what we have is unique and fortunately it is so special we are sharing it with the world,” he said, explaining the anecdote.
The investment Romney was referring to is Global Tech Appliance, in which Brookside Capital Fund acquired a stake in 1998. Brookside, Bain’s public equity affiliate, had a passive, minority stake in the company. It is unclear whether any improvements were made to the working conditions described by the former Governor of Massachusetts.
Global Tech Appliance was unavailable for comment.
The bulk of the coverage surrounding the video so far has been dedicated to his comments concerning a supposed culture of victimhood in the United States.
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. Alright, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent on government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them, who believe they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing,” he said, adding that those people will likely vote for President Barack Obama.
“And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to convince is the five to 10 percent in the center who are independents.”
One popular narrative within media coverage of the race is that Romney has struggled to connect with ‘average’ American voters, who may be put off by his wealthy background and opaque business history. It’s a narrative that President Obama’s campaign has exploited, releasing several advertisements detailing failed Bain investments that resulted in bankruptcies or lay-offs, reinforcing perceptions of Romney’s disconnect.
That the leaked video was reportedly taken at the home of a prominent private equity executive may further complicate matters for both the industry and Romney, particularly as the industry has had to combat negative depictions of its business model in the wake of Romney’s candidacy.
Leder has donated $2500 to Romney’s campaign committee, in addition $225,000 to an unaffiliated political action committee dedicated to Romney’s election, according to US Federal Election Commission filings. Leder could not be reached for comment at press time.
The Romney campaign has reportedly released the following statement in relation to the video: “Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy. As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work. Mitt Romney's plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs.”
The candidate also walked back on his comments from the video at press conference held Monday evening: “It's not elegantly stated, let me put it that way. I was speaking off the cuff in response to a question. And I'm sure I could state it more clearly in a more effective way than I did in a setting like that.”