Saturday, July 12, 2014

Citizen Koch

Citizen Koch is a fair and balanced account of the activities of two public spirited brothers. With their joint wealth of something like 100 gigabucks, they can and do spends tens and hundreds of millions of dollars on their advocacy actions. Most of those advocacy actions are directed at destruction of unions, disenfranchising African Americans and other low income voters, increasing corporate power, destroying environmental and other regulations and rallying their fellow super-rich to protect and perpetuate the American plutocracy.

Despite the title though, the documentary is mostly about a couple of series of events, one heavily influenced by Koch money and the other influenced mostly by corporate money. The first was Scott Walker's election as Wisconsin governor, implementation of the Koch program, and a subsequent recall election which he again won, partly by outspending his Democratic opponent 8 to 1, fuelled by Koch and other out of State money. The second was former Republican governor and congressman Buddy Romer's unsuccessful attempt to get on the stage in the Republican primary debates.

My initial reaction was furious rage at the way the Koch's and the Kochtopus had subverted the political process, dominated State politics, and corrupted the Supreme Court (Clarence Thomas's wife, for example, got big bucks from them).

The money doesn't just go to politicians. The documentary was originally scheduled for Public television, but PBS chickened out when it remembered that David Koch was a big contributor. As Stephen Colbert notably mentioned, "if you give $75 to PBS you get a tote bag, for $23 million, you get their nut sack.

The documentary is not really a very successful piece of political propaganda though. A lot of it was focussed on the members of the public employee unions that Walker broke. Their furious protests in the halls of the State Legislature were far from unambiguously attractive. These scenes probably put off at least as many people as they inspired. I would have preferred more details about who got Koch money and for what - but thanks to their friends on the US Supreme Court, they can operate with a high degree of secrecy.