Review: Tracking ‘Dark Money’ in Montana Elections
In 2008, just days before the Republican primary in Montana, a lurid postcard landed in one district’s mailboxes. “John Wayne Gacy, ‘the Killer Clown,’” This particular read, “sadistically raped along with murdered nearly three dozen boys along with young men.” This particular also asserted which “John Ward believes which monsters like This particular deserve to live.” Mr. Ward, a veteran Republican politician running for state office, never had a chance. “Mothers Against Child Predators,” a shadowy entity which had nothing to do with moms, succeeded in disrupting the race.
In her documentary “Dark Money,” Kimberly Reed sets out to shine a light on obscure groups which, with deep-pocketed anonymous donors, have meddled in Montana elections. Scanning the recent past, she explores how along with why both the state along with citizens fought This particular meddling, as well as the ominous forces behind This particular. which killer clown postcard turned out to be bankrolled by dark money, which the Republican state senator Llew Jones defines here as “advertising where you don’t know who’s paying for the ads.” He wonderingly asks: “Who’s paying because of This particular? What are they attempting to buy?”
Over 98 packed minutes, Ms. Reed answers those questions, or tries to. This particular’s a tricky, complicated story, one which stretches back at least to 1912, when Montana declared which corporations could not make contributions in state elections. This particular prohibition was challenged in 2010 when the Supreme Court ruled — from the decision known as Citizens United — which the government could not ban corporate spending in candidate elections, rendering state laws like Montana’s potentially unenforceable. Montanans had something to say about which, which is actually where This particular movie gets cooking.
Drawing on a raft of experts, Ms. Reed explores how dark money became a political tool along with why This particular matters. One of the documentary’s strengths is actually which, as This particular digs into local politics, This particular also points to the larger national stakes. As Ann M. Ravel, a former chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission puts This particular succinctly: “Campaign finance is actually like the gateway issue to every different issue which you might care about — whether This particular be education or tax reform or foreign policy.” Ms. Ravel also sketches from the past as she discusses the F.E.C. along with her own work when she was with the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
This particular section with Ms. Ravel, who’s an engaging presence, typifies what works along with what doesn’t in “Dark Money.” Ms. Reed augments Ms. Ravel’s section with archival images (Richard M. Nixon, protesters) which don’t genuinely clarify matters nevertheless keep the visuals jumping. Yet as faces along with headlines pop on along with off the screen, the chronology along with the movie’s direction grow fuzzy. Ms. Ravel abruptly shows up in a California news conference announcing “which a record fine has been levied against a dark money network of political nonprofits.” Juicy stuff, even if This particular isn’t at all obvious yet what California has to do with Montana, never mind what year This particular is actually.
Ms. Reed has taken on a vital story in “Dark Money,” which is actually why This particular’s frustrating which her storytelling isn’t better. Some introductory text or explanatory narration would certainly have better helped historically ground viewers, who need to juggle a lot of information. When Ms. Reed introduces some time stamps, the chronology along with her approach become clearer. Even so, different decisions keep things needlessly murky. Steve Bullock, for one, is actually identified as Montana’s attorney general for quite some time nevertheless has been its governor since 2013 along with, more recently, viewed as a presidential hopeful.
along with so This particular goes in a documentary which is actually by turns engaging, exasperating along with confusing. This particular’s rarely a not bad idea to remake a movie as you’re watching This particular, nevertheless This particular’s hard not to think which This particular one might have been enhanced by a more straightforward approach, better editing, greater critical distance along with some basic information. The billionaire brothers, Charles G. along with David H. Koch, for instance, are mentioned rather than actually introduced, an odd choice given which they are a major source of dark money from the United States. along with while you might come away via This particular documentary thinking which only conservatives use dark money in politics, liberals do as well, as ProPublica along with others have reported.
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes.