Filmmakers Claim David Koch Killed Funding for Their Documentary

Documentary filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin turn to Kickstarter after claims Koch killed the film's distribution.

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The filmmakers behind a documentary called "Citizen Koch" claim David Koch used his influence to kill the PBS funding needed for its distribution.

Filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin turned to crowdsourcing for their documentary after claiming they were silenced by billionaire chemical industrialist David Koch, whom the film portrays.

They started a Kickstarter campaign Tuesday to fund their documentary "Citizen Koch," which looks at the impact that unlimited campaign spending had on citizen recall efforts against Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wisc, in 2012.

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"Money has long played a starring role in politics, but things really got out of control after the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, engineered by corporate and far-right interest groups to super-enfrancise the wealthiest and disenfranchise ordinary Americans," Lessin and Deal wrote on their Kickstarter. "'Citizen Koch' tells that story – from the political influence wielded by billionaire industrialists and conservative activists David and Charles Koch and others like them to the real-life struggles of ordinary Republicans and Democrats as they collide with the big money juggernaut."

The documentary, which didn't paint the Koch brothers in the best light, premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival and was on track for public broadcast until the Independent Television Service, the public agency that funds and curates independent documentaries, withdrew its financial support as well as its television partnership for the film. The filmmakers claim this was because it would have embarrassed Koch, a PBS donor and member of the Board of Directors of public television networks WNET in New York and WGBH in Boston.

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"Just as powerful campaign spenders expect something in return from the politicians they support, so, too, do public television's high-dollar donors," Lessin said in a release. "It's ironic that our film about the undue influence of money in politics was subject to undue influence of money in public broadcasting."

The filmmakers hope to raise $75,000 in 30 days through the Kickstarter campaign. Deal and Lessin say the money will be used to cover the costs of music licenses, footage licenses, editing and others associated with readying the film for distribution.

"The reason that we're crowdfunding for 'Citizen Koch' is we want to get this film seen," Deal told Whispers. "One of the obstacles we have right now to distribution is that we lost this key amount of funding that was going to enable us to ready the film for distribution, and we have such robust interest in the film and so many people who want to bring it to their communities and so many requests, it almost feels like we have no choice; we have to raise the money to get the film out there."

Koch could not be reached for comment.

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  • Corrected on : UPDATE 7/12/13: A previous version of this story reported that PBS killed the funding for the movie. The filmmakers say it was the public television agency that pulled funding.