“Citizen Koch”

Carl Deal and Tia Lessin's documentary shows at the MKE Film Fest Sunday, cutting into the politics behind Scott Walker's recall election and the Citizens United ruling.

By - Sep 28th, 2013 12:01 am
Get a daily rundown of the top stories on Urban Milwaukee


Citizen Koch is a documentary chronicling the Koch Brothers’ influence on American politics, particularly the 2012 mid-term elections, through the guise of Americans For Prosperity, a non-profit group heavily funded by Koch Industries.

Americans for Prosperity is a group championing special interests founded in 2004 by David Koch and Richard Fink (one of the board of directors at Koch Industries). AFP has been accused of funding “astroturf” operations (those appearing to be grassroots efforts, but are, in fact, heavily subsidized by corporations), and also has been the main financial source for several Tea Party candidates. AFP opposes health care reform, stimulus spending, cap-and-trade legislation, and, most significantly in the film, labor unions. AFP’s efforts were aided incalculably by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

In their film, directors Carl Deal and Tia Lessin (the team behind Trouble the Water, a 2008 doc set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina) illustrate how that one ruling gave corporations the same latitude as individuals to give (without financial disclosure) to super PACs, the U.S. Chamber, and other groups, and helped establish Wisconsin’s current state of troubled politics, surrounding both the Act 10 protests and the recall effort against Governor Scott Walker.

As it turned out, the 2010 elections, the first major election since the ruling, would be the most expensive midterm elections in our nation’s history, with most of the funds injected into the Republican party as a direct result of the Citizens United ruling — roughly $3.5 billion, particularly in Wisconsin state elections.

The film follows those who felt swindled after that election on both sides of the aisle, in the wake of Scott Walker’s anti-union stance further developed after his election. Anticipating backlash, Americans For Prosperity ran ads accusing Barack Obama not only of siding with unions, but of exporting rowdy union supporters to Madison, WI to stir up trouble. Walker would ultimately win the recall election with 53 percent of the vote, but also raised $36 million in his defense and outspent his opponent Tom Barrett 8 to 1.

Suffice it to say it’s a controversial subject, made all the more so by the circumstances surrounding its release. Dean and Lessin originally had $150,000 in backing from PBS, but were forced to turn to Kickstarter for funding when PBS removed the movie from their lineup. Why? For fear of offending the billionaire Koch brothers, who have given $23 million to public television.

Citizen Koch shows at the Downer Theatre at 4:45 p.m. Sunday, September 29 and at the Oriental Theatre at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 1. Tickets are $10, $9 for students/seniors available online or on-site, while availability lasts.

Categories: Movies

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us