First Tuesday Film Review: Dark Money

On January 1, 2019, the First Tuesday Film will partner with The Dallas Peace and Justice Center to present the documentary Dark Money. It could possibly be one of our most relevant films given the investigation into the President’s campaign funds.

Dark money refers to donations given to non-profit organizations in an effort to influence elections. Because the money is given to organizations ostensibly set up to help various social and economic groups the donors are allowed to remain anonymous. Most of the ads sent out attacking certain candidates while lauding others are paid for through these mysterious funds. And, it’s not just Democrats who feel the brunt of these attacks. Republicans who do not agree to follow through on certain favorite policies also fall victim. As current journalism proves, the wording is everything in the marketing world.

Much of the movie is focused on Montana, a state that has a long history of money flowing into elections. It started with a mining company known as Anaconda in the 19th Century, a company that owned most of the mining rights in an area rich with copper and other minerals. In 1912, the state made it illegal for corporations to influence elections by enacting campaign finance laws.

The rest of the nation was slow to follow suit until after Watergate. Money for the burglars hired by Nixon arrived in suitcases from unknown sources and the Federal Election Commision was formed as a result.

As the movie shows, the FEC turns out to be a lame duck committee of three Republicans and three Democrats who fail to agree on any issues. When Citizens United sued the FEC the dark money began to flow freely once more. While Montana sued to retain their own campaign finance laws, the Supreme Court declared their laws unconstitutional.

While Montana continues the battle and manages to create its own solutions, it is ahead of the other states. Many of the states that once had campaign finance laws to protect them are now being flooded with these nonprofits that influence their elections.

One of the things that struck me about this movie is the amount of evidence that has been uncovered. As is shown by the current investigation, maybe there’s hope these donors can no longer hide. While the government might be purchased, there are many of us who cannot be bought and we must use our voices to bring all the corruption into the light where it cannot hide.

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