-- By Brendan Fischer and Gabe Heck
Tia Lessen and Carl Deal are far from giving up after public television pulled funding for their film "Citizen Koch:" the filmmakers have launched a Kickstarter campaign to crowdsource the funds necessary to release their documentary on money, power and democracy.
"David Koch's money may be able to keep the film off the public airwaves, but it can't withstand the power of thousands of small-dollar donors to band together online to get 'Citizen Koch' out to the public," said filmmaker Carl Deal.
The documentary features families impacted by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's union busting "budget repair" bill, which sparked massive protests in 2011. The Koch brothers backing of Walker's efforts to remake Wisconsin, and the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is part of the story.
Originally slated to appear on PBS stations nationwide as part of the "Independent Lens" series, the film had its funding pulled at the last minute, apparently because David Koch -- a major public television funder and PBS member station board member -- was offended by another documentary critical of the billionaire industrialists. This meant that the film was $150,000 short of the amount needed to cover production and licensing fees.
The dispute, documented by the New Yorker's Jane Mayer, highlighted the sometimes-controversial role of private money in public broadcasting. As federal lawmakers have continued cutting funding for public TV, private funders have filled the void, with David Koch giving over $23 million in recent years.
"It's ironic that our film about the undue influence of money in politics was subject to undue influence of money in public broadcasting," commented filmmaker Tia Lessen, in response to PBS's decision.
The entire episode reaffirms the old political adage, "money talks" or -- in this case -- "money stifles talk." But average Americans can turn this around.
Thousands have already thumbed their nose at the brothers Koch and have made small Kickstarter contributions to make sure Citizen Koch is seen. Donations can be made until August 8, 2013.