Dark Money: A Thrilling Political Documentary

John S. Adams silhouetted in the Montana Capitol building, from DARK MONEY, a PBS Distribution release

Taking the battle to the frontline in Montana, Dark Money examines the consequences of the Citizens United v. FEC ruling.

When the United States Supreme Court announced their Citizens United ruling, the effects were devastating for American politics.  Once prohibited to donate to political campaigns, corporations were handed the free reign to spend as they pleased.  It’s because of this that tax-exempt “organizations” set up shop without any requirement to record their donors.  This results in money not being traced back to anyone aside from those organizations.  Investigative journalist John Adams points out that this is a never-ending cycle.  The money funneled into PACs gets spent on postcards encouraging the election of a candidate.  Once the candidate gets elected, they vote in the interests of the donor.  The cycle repeats.

However, the corporate money spent on American political campaigns cannot be traced back to any one person.  Even if we have an idea of who those people might be, the reality is that our elected officials are being bought.  They do not represent the constituents but rather the corporate donors.  All one has to do is look at what happens every single time that there’s a mass gun shooting in America.  Does Congress do anything about it?  No, it’s the NRA who buys their complicity in doing nothing.  Again, the cycle repeats itself.

Director Kimberly Reed is smart to base in her home state of Montana.  Led by the efforts of Attorney General Steve Bullock, Montana was the ONLY state at one time willing to take on the Citizens United ruling.  Reed is able to capture the outrage that followed the Citizens United ruling through three consecutive election cycles.  Dark Money hits at just how bad the consequences are as a result through interviews with journalists and those who follow the money.  This includes interviews with politicians and even those members who sat on the Federal Election Commission.  Reed doesn’t make the film biased towards one political ideology or the other.  This is important to note because dark money isn’t exclusive to only one side of the aisle.

There is a lot of money spent on American politics.  When corporations get free reign to go unchecked, more money is spent and American voters no longer have a say in the system.  It’s no longer a system that serves the public interest.  Instead, the American political system has become a system bought and sold by corporate donors.  What results, as Dark Money shows in a thorough investigation, is a campaign finance system is as bad as its ever been.

The release of Dark Money couldn’t be more timely.  We are in the fourth election cycle following the ruling of Citizens United.  If there’s a message that this film sends, it’s that we need to badly reform campaign finance.  If it weren’t for the ruling, The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (McCain-Feingold Act) would have given John McCain a worthy legacy.

DIRECTOR:  Kimberly Reed
FEATURING:  John Adams, Jonathan Motl, Ann Ravel, Art Wittich, Gene Jarussi, Steve Bullock

The film premiered during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Documentary Competition. PBS opens Dark Money at the IFC Center in NY on July 13, 2018, before a theatrical expansion.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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