Previous: Increasingly, feature-length political documentaries are using new technology to get their films seen. You may recall that the Sarah Palin biopic The Undefeated was made available last September on video-on-demand and pay-per-view to approximately 75 million homes through major cable and satellite companies such as DirecTV, Dish Network, and Time Warner Cable. Now in time for the election cycle, liberal filmmaker Robert Greenwald is employing the same methods with his take on Koch Brothers Exposed which starts streaming on May 8th. The director of docs on Wal-Mart, Rupert Murdoch, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan takes on billionaires Charles and David Koch and their huge funding of conservative causes as well as their political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity. The film is a project of Brave New Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, and premiered in NYC on March 29th (in partnership with AlterNet). It continued to Washington DC on Monday (in partnership with Democracy for America, Campaign for America’s Future, Greenpeace, and the Advancement Project); came to Boston on Tuesday; and debuts in Los Angeles April 10th. Here’s how the film describes itself:
After more than a year of research, Greenwald’s film exposes tactics used by the Koch brothers to sway the political narrative in their favor, while illustrating the dangers of unbridled influence when in the hands of few. This includes efforts to suppress voter rights, re-segregate public schools, weaken EPA regulation, privatize Social Security, and how the Kochs’ immense echo chamber of influence comes into play.
“When I learned about the damage Charles and David Koch were doing to our democracy, I wanted to make sure more Americans understood just what these billionaire brothers were up to,” said Greenwald. “If we allow them to hide in the shadows, they can keep funding politicians and hijacking our political process with impunity—and we’ll never get justice for the 99%.”
INVESTIGATING THE KOCHS
Greenwald and his Brave New Foundation team conducted numerous interviews with people all around the country for their personal experiences on the Kochs impacting their lives; as well as extensive research into financial reports, think tanks and online videos. The results include:
The Echo Chamber of Influence – Documents and interviews unearthed by Brave New Foundation researchers illustrate a $28.4 million Koch effort that has manufactured 297 opinions and commentaries, 200 reports, 56 studies and six books distorting Social Security’s effectiveness and purpose. This is just one example of the vast industry comprised of Koch brothers’ spokespeople, front groups, think tanks, academics and elected officials, which has built a self-sustaining echo chamber to transform fringe ideas into popular mainstream public policy arguments.
Voter Suppression – Through their web of political influence, the Kochs’ have bought access to democracy’s lifeblood: free and fair elections. The Kochs’ have funded efforts to potentially thwart 21 million Americans from voting as Koch dollars helped write and propose voting suppression bills in 38 states.
Keystone XL – Koch Industries and its employees are the single largest oil and gas donors to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Along with ample evidence linking the Kochs’ business to the Canadian tar sands, they refuse to testify in Congress about their financial interest in the controversial Keystone XL.
At the same time, the Kochs’ allies in Congress are doing their best to stonewall and remove oversight.
Re-Segregation – Americans for Prosperity – a political advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers – led the effort to remake a successful school diversity policy in Wake County, NC; which was the model framework for scores of school districts across the country. The 2009 school board election provided AFP an opportunity to lay the groundwork for candidates who advocate for re-segregation, or in Jim Crow terms “neighborhood schools.”
Cancer in Crossett – Koch Industries is among the top ten worst air polluters. And, Georgia Pacific, a Koch Industries subsidiary in Arkansas, is one of the largest manufacturers of the human carcinogen formaldehyde. While the Koch brothers wage war against safety precautions, every day this factory is dumping millions of gallons of wastewater into streams that flow near a small rural town. The surrounding area is noticeably affected by air pollution – particularly in a minority neighborhood now dying of cancer. The brave community members of Crossett give powerful testimony to how they believe their health is being ravaged by a Koch Industries plant.
Higher Education – At a time when governments are slashing higher education funding, the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation has given more than $14.39 million in grants to over 150 universities. In return, some of these campuses are required to hire candidates who adhere to Koch-defined ideological guidelines.
Mark Holden, General Counsel for Koch Industries Inc, sent Deadline this statement on Robert Greenwald:
Robert Greenwald is a fringe video maker who was recently de-funded by the George Soros-backed Democracy Alliance. Perhaps due to the fact that he lost his source of funding, Mr. Greenwald is desperately seeking attention for a new video that attacks Koch Industries, Charles Koch, and David Koch. If Mr. Greenwald’s past works are any indication, this current effort will be a partisan hatchet job that has no credibility.
Mr. Greenwald has falsely claimed that Koch is behind various voter ID laws passed by state legislatures (it isn’t), that Koch was the impetus for some Wake County, North Carolina school board decisions (it wasn’t), and that Georgia-Pacific’s Crossett, Arkansas mill is somehow linked to cancer (this is baseless). Mr. Greenwald’s statements are maliciously false and misleading, and we urge the news media not to republish them. All one really needs to know about Mr. Greenwald is revealed by a statement he made several years ago: “There is a great quote: ‘The truth is too important to let the facts get in the way.’” In his latest project, he has lived up to those words. We hope that Mr. Greenwald’s recent video is seen for what it is: a desperate attempt by an obscure video maker to make money off of the orchestrated partisan political attacks against Koch that have been going on for the past few years.