Romney Camp Responds to Hidden Camera Kerfuffle With '98 Obama Audio

After Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney came under harsh criticism this week, even among his own supporters, for remarks he made to wealthy donors that were caught by a hidden camera, his campaign is hitting back with an audio tape of his rival, President Barack Obama, saying that he believes in wealth redistribution.

"In a newly-unearthed set of remarks, we can hear Barack Obama in his own words advocating for government as a means to redistribute wealth ... Mitt Romney has a very different idea. He knows that we need to foster growth and create wealth, not redistribute wealth, if our economy is to grow the way it has in the past," campaign manager Matt Rhoades wrote in a Wednesday statement.

The Republican National Committee also released a new Web ad Wednesday, called "Redistribution," using the same audio clip.

In the audio, apparently taken from a 1998 conference presentation at Loyola University when Obama was an Illinois state senator, he says, "The trick is figuring out how do we structure government systems that pool resources and hence facilitate some redistribution because I actually believe in redistribution, at least at a certain level to make sure everybody's got a shot."

The context of the clip, which lasts for 96 seconds, appears to be government programs to help the working poor.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney characterized on Wednesday the release of the audio tape as a desperate attempt by the Romney campaign to change the subject.

"The [Romney] campaign is having a very bad day, or a very bad week. And in circumstances like that there are efforts made, sometimes desperate efforts made, to change the subject," Carney said.

In Romney's hidden camera remarks he suggests that the 47 percent of households who pay no federal income taxes will not vote for him because they are dependent on government.

Romney has not retracted the remarks but said they were not elegantly stated.

Some of Romney's harshest critics have been conservatives. In a Wednesday editorial for The Washington Post, Henry Olsen, vice president at the American Enterprise Institute and director of its National Research Initiative, argued that Romney's remarks are out of step with core conservative principles.

"Conservatism at its heart believes in the individual. We believe that every person has the capacity to devise a life of her or his own choosing, and that untoward government activity both channels and throttles a person's ability to flourish," Olsen wrote.

"But when Romney divides the world into makers and takers and presumes that our ability to pay federal income tax is a measure of which group we belong to, he sends a different message. He implicitly tells average Americans that their quiet work doesn't 'make' America unless they are entrepreneurs who make enough money. Worse, he tells them that their lives aren't even dignified, that they are 'takers' who are unable to exercise personal responsibility over their lives."