- Grandson of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter
- Self-described “partisan Democrat” whose “goal is to get Democrats elected”
- Discovered and helped publicize the video of a controversial 2012 campaign speech by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in which Romney said that “47 percent” of Americans “believe that they are victims,” “believe that the government has the responsibility to care for them,” “pay no income tax,” and refuse to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives”
Born in 1977, James Carter IV is the grandson of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. He attended Centre College in Kentucky, then Georgia Southern University, and finally Georgia State University—changing majors along the way and working occasionally in the tech departments of various political campaigns. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I wasn’t super motivated,” Carter recalls.
After graduating college, Carter’s work experience consisted mostly of public policy research for his cousin, a Georgia state senator. As of mid-2012, he was halfway through a master’s degree program and unemployed. His Twitter biography read, in part, “Currently looking for work… Seriously, give me a project.”
During the presidential campaign of 2012, Carter, a self-described “partisan Democrat” whose “goal is to get Democrats elected,” spent long hours trolling the Internet, particularly YouTube.com, for videos that might contain footage casting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a negative light. One August day, Carter strayed upon a brief excerpt from a 49-minute speech that Romney had given at a May 17 fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida. The short clip, which showed the candidate discussing his visit to a Chinese factory with substandard working conditions,1 caught Carter’s attention and led him to suspect that the full speech—most of which had not been posted online—might contain the type of incriminating footage he was seeking. He promptly used Twitter to contact Scott Prouty, the individual who had videotaped Romney’s speech and then posted the excerpt,2 and began the process of trying to persuade him to anonymously hand over the full video to David Corn, Washington bureau chief of the socialist magazine Mother Jones.3
Eventually, in a series of subsequent Internet conversations, Carter convinced Prouty—whose identity would not be publicly revealed until he himself stepped forward to take credit for the video in March 2013—to trust that his anonymity would be protected by Corn. When Corn received the video in mid-September 2012, he promptly posted, on the Mother Jones website, clips of Romney referencing the “47 percent” of Americans who “believe that they are victims,” “believe that the government has the responsibility to care for them,” “pay no income tax,” and refuse to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” The quotes sparked a firestorm of controversy and harmed the Romney campaign substantially. Soon thereafter, Corn posted the full video of Romney’s speech.
Recognizing the political significance of the video, former President Carter congratulated his grandson for his efforts, writing in an email: “James: This is extraordinary. Congratulations! Papa.”
As the controversy surrounding Romney’s remarks gained traction, the younger Carter told reporters: “I’ve been searching for clips on Republicans for a long time, almost every day. I just do it for fun.” “I never really found the perfect fit for what I wanted to do until just recently, when I started doing this,” he added. “I’ve just been floating around at the edges of this for a while…. I just really want to help Democrats.”[
Hopeful that the widely publicized blow he had dealt to the Romney campaign might help him land a job somewhere, Carter said in September 2012: “I’ve been trying to get paid for this but it hasn’t worked out yet. This might help.” Before long, he received job offers from the Ohio Democratic Party, the Huffington Post, and ThinkProgress.
1 Romney was making the point that, notwithstanding the poor working conditions at the factory, many Chinese people were desperately trying to find a way to get jobs there, because of a lack of better alternatives.
2 Prouty was a bartender working for a private catering company that serviced the Romney fundraiser in Florida.
3 “They [i.e., Scott Prouty] were wary at first,” Carter said in an interview with the Associated Press. “But they did respond.”