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Citizen Koch

Old 05-31-13, 10:12 AM
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Citizen Koch

Premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and coming soon to a theater near you!


Money has long played a starring role in politics. But the Supreme Court’s 2010 landmark ruling in Citizens United v. FEC marked seismic shift in how America’s elections are fought and financed. The ruling was engineered in part by corporate and far-right interest groups that had long sought to undermine the influence of unions and small donors. Their state-by-state campaign to reshape elections found its test market in Wisconsin – birthplace of progressivism, the Republican Party, and government unions.

From Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, the Oscar-nominated filmmakers who made Trouble the Water, winner of the 2008 Sundance Grand Jury Prize for best documentary, comes Citizen Koch, a story about money, citizenship, and democracy.

Citizen Koch features three Wisconsin state employees whose staunch Republican loyalty is challenged when newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker moves to take away their union rights, while simultaneously bestowing tax breaks on large corporations. When the Tea Party takes root in their state, these lifelong Republicans must confront the fact that the policies their party is pushed to advocate are cutting the economic ground out from underneath them and their families. They come to see the political drama unfolding in their state as a GOP strategy to drain union resources and, by extension, the Democratic Party.

Growing recognition that losing their unions will impoverish not only their wallets, but also their citizenship, leads these public employees to a grassroots movement to recall Gov. Walker. That effort collides with a juggernaut: the Tea Party-aligned Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a 501c4 ideological “corporation” founded and lavishly financed by billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch. The Virginia-based AFP becomes the biggest political spender in support of Gov. Walker and a vehicle for wealthy individuals and corporations to back candidates—without leaving a paper trail.

As political groups anonymously pour money into Wisconsin on Gov. Walker’s behalf, former Louisiana governor and congressman Buddy Roemer takes a principled stand on the national stage and makes campaign finance reform the centerpiece of his 2012 GOP presidential bid. Citizen Koch follows Roemer as his campaign fizzles on his refusal to accept donations over $100. Outspent and drowned out by SuperPAC-funded opponents, Roemer posits the crucial question: Should money determine who even gets heard in our democracy?

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision renders that question naïve. Equating unlimited campaign donations with free speech, the court reversed longstanding restrictions on corporate election spending. The decision effectively limits who is deemed a viable candidate, and reshapes how political campaigns are waged. Through interviews with participants in the case and audio of the arguments, the film reveals the partisan origins of the case, and exposes how two justices with the appearance of conflicts of interest tipped the court’s decision--raising questions about the legitimacy of the ruling and the integrity of court itself.

By detailing the personal and political consequences of a broken electoral system, Citizen Koch lands the issue of the influence of money in politics squarely on the kitchen table of all Americans. The film asks who really has the power in America, the wealthiest donors or the voting public? The answers call into question the very meaning of citizenship.

Statement about “A Word From Our Sponsor,” by Carl Deal & Tia Lessin

Our film CITIZEN KOCH tells a story about how the money of the few drowns out the voices of the many. Set against the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Citizens United and the rise of the Tea Party and Occupy movements, the film explores the consequences for democracy when private interests determine who is elected to deliver public good.

Public television had commissioned our film last spring, but fearing that our film would displease one of its large contributors, public television abruptly backed out on our deal.

Investigative journalist Jane Mayer exposes the self-censorship process in her New Yorker article “A Word from Our Sponsor: Public television’s attempts to placate David Koch.” The carefully documented piece reveals how the role of billionaire industrialist and conservative activist David Koch as a trustee of and donor to PBS flagship stations WNET and WGBH compromised the independence and integrity of public broadcasting. It also tells the story of how we, as a result, lost our own public television commission for CITIZEN KOCH.

Public television viewers also lost out by being denied an opportunity to participate in a discussion of the issues our film raises.

After much thought, we decided to go public with our experience hoping that, like the film itself, it will spark conversation about how power wielded by high-dollar political donors like Charles and David Koch distorts the public dialogue.

With the possibility looming that the Kochs’ may purchase the Tribune Company of newspapers, this conversation takes on vital relevance to the public.

Documentary filmmaking is the nexus of art and journalism, and we hope that Mayer’s exposé informs honest conversations within and outside public television and the independent filmmaking community about the role and importance of public financing for public arts institutions and that it also encourages people to take a stand against censorship in any form.

- Carl Deal & Tia Lessin
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Old 06-01-13, 05:30 PM
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Re: Citizen Koch

Looks like a typical hit piece. Doesn't show the opposing point of view. While I despise Corporationism I don't see life where Public Sector Unions and Liberal Special Interest groups will make my life better either. See California for a perfect Case Study.....
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Old 06-08-13, 02:56 PM
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Re: Citizen Koch

Originally Posted by BKenn01 View Post
Looks like a typical hit piece. Doesn't show the opposing point of view. While I despise Corporationism I don't see life where Public Sector Unions and Liberal Special Interest groups will make my life better either. See California for a perfect Case Study.....
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