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Review: Dark Money

It’s the documentary of our time. Untraceable money is flooding US political races, from corporations and rich individuals with agendas that run counter to the will of the people. Filmmaker Kimberly Reed went to her home state of Montana see how the 2010 Citizens United ruling changed the political climate and what they did about it. According the filmmaker: “The only way to really understand how the dark money shell game works is to follow the nonprofit corporations over multiple election cycles as they pop up, disintegrate, reconstitute, and wreak havoc once again. It usually takes journalists years to uncover the damage that dark money causes, and by that time it is too late. I played this game of Whack-A-Mole over three election cycles in what became the perfect environment to tell the campaign finance story. Montana was not only the first and hardest hit with dark money but also the state that fought back the hardest with grassroots citizen outrage. Dark Money puts a human face to that fight.” It’s a film that will outrage you no matter your political ideology!

The filmmakers were very smart to make this a bipartisan issue. And using Red State Montana as a microcosm for secret corporate political spending post Citizens United is also a good move. Montana actually had a law on the books forbidding corporate spending in politics dating back to 1912 when the Anaconda Copper Mining Co. dominated the state economy and bought the state legislature. And they had extremely clean elections ever since. That is until the Supreme Court decided corporations were people with the right to donate without saying who they were. And Montana sued to keep their own law on the books but lost.

There are a lot of insightful talking heads with a lot to say in the film, but one standout is investigative reporter John S. Adams. After leaving his job at the Great Falls Tribune following some corporate restructuring, he launched Montana Free Press and uncovered the biggest campaign finance case in the state’s history. Together all the experts and a lot of locals are sharing the same narrative that corporate money perverts the political process and campaign finance reform is urgently needed.

The documentary Dark Money isn’t based on Jane Mayer’s 2016 book of the same name, but they both address the same problem. And both demand US citizenry wake up and fight back if democracy is to be saved. This is a very political film that everyone needs to see. Take your liberal/conservative friends and you’ll be sure to have something to talk about over beers after.

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