Watch Citizen Koch
- 1 hr 30 min
Citizen Koch is a documentary film from 2013 that explores the role of money in politics and the controversial takeover of the Republican party by wealthy donors, particularly the Koch brothers. The film is directed by Carl Deal and Tia Lessin, who previously worked on the Academy Award-nominated documentary Trouble the Water. The film follows the aftermath of the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which lifted limits on corporate and union spending in elections. The Koch brothers, billionaire industrialists known for their libertarian beliefs and massive campaign contributions, saw this as an opportunity to further their political agenda. They poured millions of dollars into conservative groups and super PACs, effectively buying influence in the Republican party. One of the primary focuses of the film is the 2011 Wisconsin protests against Governor Scott Walker, who had recently signed legislation to weaken collective bargaining rights for most public employees in the state. The film examines the role of conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity (founded and funded by the Koch brothers), in supporting Walker and pushing for these controversial policies. The film also explores the backlash against the Koch brothers and their influence on politics. It follows the story of Republican Congressman and former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who initially received support from the Koch brothers but later distanced himself from their extreme views. The film also features interviews with journalists, activists, and everyday citizens who are struggling to fight back against big money in politics. One particularly emotional thread in the film involves the impact of the Citizens United decision on the 2012 election in Montana, where corporate spending had previously been banned. The film tells the story of a small-town candidate named Steve Bullock, who stood up to the Koch-backed group American Tradition Partnership and won a lawsuit against them. The victory was short-lived, however, as the Supreme Court struck down Montana's campaign finance laws in a 5-4 decision. Critics praised Citizen Koch for its timely and thought-provoking examination of the role of money in politics, particularly in the wake of the 2010 Citizens United decision. The film received positive reviews from outlets such as The New York Times and Variety, and won awards at several film festivals. However, the film's distribution was controversial. The title originally included the Koch brothers' names, but after pressure from PBS (who helped fund the film), the word "Koch" was removed. This led to accusations that the network was censoring criticism of major donors. Overall, Citizen Koch is a powerful and compelling documentary that raises important questions about the state of democracy in America. It sheds light on the insidious influence of money in politics and the consequences for everyday citizens. Despite its controversial distribution, the film is a must-see for anyone interested in politics or social justice.