Killer Movie Reviews

Making the world safe for filmgoers since 2002.

CITIZEN KOCH — Carl Deal and Tia Lessin Interview

Tia Lessin & Carl Deal

Tia Lessin & Carl Deal

CITIZEN KOCH is a documentary with a backstory as compelling as the one on which it sheds light. Filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin discovered first-hand the power of behind-the-scenes influence of unlimited money coupled with a political agenda to influence the media when their film lost funding, and a slot on PBS, at the last minute. That one of the subjects of the film, David Koch, is also a high-dollar contributor and a trustee at two PBS affiliates may or may not be a coincidence.

That it is not being distributed theatrically is a testament to the filmmakers’ determination that the story be told. And a disturbing, disheartening story it is, starting with the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, essentially allowing unlimited political donations from corporations to candidates, and continuing with the unsung, but gutsy, campaign by Buddy Roemer for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, a bit that was blocked by the Republican Party at every turn, raising the requirements every time that Roemer met or exceeded them. The real problem was Roemer’s unwillingness to toe the party line.

When we spoke on June 27, 2014, we covered their own close encounter with big money, as well as that of Roemer. What I most wanted to discuss, though, was the influence that these high-money donors have with the Supreme Court itself, and the appearance of conflict-of-interest that it causes, and the way outside money influenced the Wisconsin gubernatorial race such that what rock-ribbed Republican voters got were not the policies for which they voted.  And I was not about to let the interview end without at least touching on how the Koch Brothers came to their political views, courtesy of their father, a founder of the rabidly anti-communist  John Birch Society, and a man who, paradoxically, made his fortune in Stalin’s Soviet Union.

Deal and Lessin spoke both thoughtfully and passionately about the implications for our country of this influence, as well as the fighting spirit that their own brush with it has engendered, including making the film available for one-off theatrical screenings as well as its regular theatrical distribution. Details at

CITIZEN KOCH is an exploration of the big, and often invisible, money that influences media and government, and not to the advantage of the common citizen. Using as a starting point the controversial Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court, Deal and Lessin show the consequences that all but unlimited campaign contributions had on the Wisconsin gubernatorial race, and the subsequent actions by Republican Governor Scott Walker to break the unions, causing a backlash against him by voters, some of whom had, until then, been staunch Republicans. They also spotlight the influence of big money on the attempt of Louisiana Republican Buddy Roemer to be part of the Republican debates during the 2012 campaign, and the opposition he receives from the Republican Party to that participation because of his opposition to the official party line. Deal and Lessin’s previous work includes the Oscar™-nominated TROUBLE THE WATER, about how one tough family from the impoverished  9th Ward survived Hurricane Katrina with dignity and humanity.

Click on the link to listen to the interview (25:20) CITIZEN KOCH — Carl Deal and Tia Lessin Interview.

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