Tia Lessin and Carl Deal’s Citizen Koch looks to shine a light on the political upheaval going on in Wisconsin due to covert corporate concessions and bought out statesmen. With the election of the Republican governor Scott Walker, economic hell seems to have broken loose as unions have been stripped of their ability to defend their working class members as massive tax breaks have been given to the rich. Splitting time between former presidential candidate Buddy Roemer as he hits the campaign trail with a bluntly honest ethos, several financially hurting hardcore Republicans as they wage war with Walker’s Tea-Party politics in response to the loss of their collective bargaining power, and an amalgamation of media clips that annotate the journey from the monumental Citizen’s United ruling to back door dealings with Walker and the Kochs, the docu is a preliminary analysis of centralized esoteric rhetoric where government officials are no longer voices of the people, but an amplified vocal commodity to be bought by the highest bidder.
Governmental candidates have always leaned on the principal investments of their supporters, but the 2009 supreme court ruling of Citizen’s United vs. the Federal Elections Commission opened up the possibility for political campaigns to appropriate contributions from donors, including corporate sources, to anonymously fund campaign ventures through Super PACs and the like, essentially legally laundering corporate cash for the promotion of corporate needs.
After Scott Walker was elected with the financial backing of the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch and their ‘non-for-profit’ ideological promo machine Americans For Prosperity, economic injustices immediately went into play, and the commonwealth reacted by calling for an electoral recall in which citizens are given the opportunity to vote out their current representative midway through their term. Dee Ives, a nurse and Air Force veteran, Mari Jo Kabat, a public school librarian, and Brian Cunningham, a correctional officer and Army veteran all find themselves alienated from the political party they’ve long held near and dear as their given rights are stripped from them by corporate henchmen in politician’s clothes. As hardships begin to surface, they rally together in hopes of electing a new official who actually represents them.
Mixed with these three conscious citizens, a barrage of broadcast news clips of Wisconsin’s struggles and disturbing, leaked conversations of the Kochs and governor Walker, Buddy Roemer is found on the campaign road being left in the dust of corporately funded Republicans. You see, Roemer refused to bow to the corporate machine, instead relying solely on grassroots funding and an honest ideology boosted by social media, but this method does not land you on network television in publicized party debates. So, Roemer was left behind, forced out of the Republican primaries to become a lowly independent. Lessin and Deal follow Roemer along the campaign trail where he delivers plenty of pointed and poignant commentary into the realm of public consciousness, win or lose. Whether his little voice can be heard over the deafening wafts of corporate cash is yet to be decided.
In contrast to the directorial duo’s devastating debut in Trouble The Water, their sophomore follow up feels a bit conventional, lacking the raw urgency and benevolence of its predecessor, but their current manifesto is no less momentous. Much like the films they’ve worked on with Michael Moore, Citizen Koch seethes with the rage of politically violated citizenry, but is devoid of the cheeky narration their mentor has adopted as his signature.
As straight-faced as the corrupt statesmen they decry, Lessin and Deal let the outspoken working class speak for themselves, hoping the fallacious political moves and obvious corporate cash flows become massive red flags for the rest of the nation – before the Kochs and others focus their seemingly limitless check books on supplementary states with the intent to bust unions and loosen the reigns on business even further. After all, what’s best for business is best for the people, and corporations are people, as they say.
Reviewed on January 26th at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival – US DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION Programme. 110 Min