Photo: Twitter / @AnneOnymous
While the firestorm surrounding the leaked Mitt Romney fundraiser video has mostly focused on the candidate’s 47-per cent comments, it’s worth noting that it was another set of comments by the Republican nominee that really got this story rolling in the first place. As we’ve previously noted, the first clip of the secretly-taped Florida fundraiser originally appeared on YouTube at the beginning of June, and featured Romney’s remarks describing the working conditions at a factory he visited in China while he was running Bain Capital.
Here’s what he said:
“When I was back in my private equity days we went to China to buy a factory there. It employed about 20,000 people and they were almost all young women between the ages of about 18 to 22 or 23. They were saving for potentially becoming married, and they work in these huge factories that make very small appliances. And we were walking through these facilities, seeing them work, the numbers of hours they work per day, the pittance they earn, living in dormitories with little bathrooms at the end. The rooms, they had 10 or 12 girls per room — three bunk beds on top of each other.”
Then he turns to a donor, “You’ve seen them?”
“Oh yeah,” the donor responds.
Romney continues: “And around this factory was a fence, a huge fence with barbed wire and guard towers. And we said ‘Gosh, I don’t believe that you keep these girls in.’ And they said ‘No, no, no. This fence is to prevent other people from coming in because people want so badly to work in this factory that we have to keep them out or they’ll just come in here and start working and try to get compensated. So this is to keep people out.’ And they said that actually, at Chinese New Year, the girls go home and sometimes they decide they’ve saved enough money and they don’t come back to the factory. So on the weekend after Chinese New Year, there’ll be a line of people, hundreds long, outside of the factory, hoping that some girls haven’t come back and that they can come to the factory. So as we were experiencing this for the first time, seeing a factory like this in China several years ago, the Bain partner I was with turned to me and said ‘You know, 95% of life is settled if you’re born in America.”
Romney never specifies what factory he is talking about, and it is not clear whether Bain Capital ended up purchasing the factory or had any stake in the company that owned it.
Several news outlets have speculated that the factory may have been owned by Global Tech Appliances, a Hong Kong-based manufacturing company that makes home appliances using cheap labour in Dongguan, China. A Bain-affiliated fund, which named Romney as its sole shareholder and chief executive, acquired a share in Global Tech in 1998. At the time of Bain’s acquisition, Global Tech was open about the fact that its business strategy was focused on profiting off U.S. companies looking to outsource production overseas, a fact that the Obama campaign has repeatedly used to cast Romney as an “outsourcer-in-chief.”
Romney’s connections to Global Tech Appliances were first revealed by Mother Jones‘ reporter David Corn, the same reporter who broke the secret fundraising video. You can read his story on Global Tech here.
The source of the leaked video appears to be singularly focused on Romney’s comments about the Chinese factory, and wholly convinced that the remarks refer to Global Tech. As we noted yesterday, around June 10, a user named RomneyExposed started promoting clips of the YouTube video in the comments section of the Huffington Post.
Then, two weeks ago, the clip of Romney’s China comments was posted on YouTube again two weeks ago by the user Anne Onymous. A user with the same handle started promoting the China clip on Twitter on August 28.
And according to BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith, who wrote an account of how the story broke, the leaker opted to give the video to David Corn over the Huffington Post because of Corn’s coverage of Romney’s connections to Global Tech.
Anne Onymous’ online footprint also provides evidence of the China focus. The YouTube page lists the user’s location as China. Anne Onymous’s Twitter location is listed as Global Tech, and the user description says this:
Mitt Romney admits buying Chinese sweatshop while at Bain. 20,000 young girls. 12 girls per room. 120 girls per bathroom. Huge fences with guard towers.
And here’s Anne Onymous’ Google + page:
Of course, the leaker’s interest in Romney’s connection to Global Tech doesn’t tell us much about his identity. Nevertheless, it is interesting that while the American media is focused on the 47-per cent comments, there are other interests and motivations in play here.
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