Call it a screening, a press conference, a meeting, or a get-together of like-minded friends. Regardless, the [insert event term here] for the “Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition ” documentary still happened Tuesday evening in the Capitol Visitors Center despite Republican accusations of Democratic impropriety.
“The Koch brothers’ tentacles have sunken deep into our democracy and deep into the Republican Party,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told the few dozen interested people and reporters in attendance. “That’s evident by the fact they even tried to stop us from having this meeting.” Controversy swirled around the screening as Republicans charged that the event focusing on billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch violated rules about film premieres on Capitol grounds. Democrats responded that the rules did not apply to the room in the CVC and that the event was a press conference.
But a press release characterized the event as a screening. Although the release advertised a Q&A with Pelosi and Reid, neither took questions after their speeches.
Pelosi ducked out to speak on the House floor during legislative debate and Reid was pulled out of the room by a staffer during Sen. Bernie Sanders’ remarks.
Sanders also did not take questions from the press, but CQ Roll Call caught up with him as he was leaving. Sanders maintained holding the screening in the CVC was appropriate given the film’s message.
“I didn’t make that decision but I think it’s important that we do hold it,” the Vermont Independent said. “We’re dealing with campaign finance reform. And if you’re interested in education, climate change, health care, any other major issue facing this country, you have got to be concerned about campaign finance reform.”
The film’s director, Robert Greenwald, also said the decision to premiere the film in the CVC was connected to its focus on campaign finance reform. “This is an issue that must be debated and resolved in the political universe. And this is the center of all of that: Washington, D.C.”
The film itself highlights the Koch brothers’ influence on the political process and incorporates ominous music and a narrator with a Southern drawl. It updates Greenwald's 2012 Koch brothers film and focuses on their role in the Citizens United decision and their opposition to raising the minimum wage. Roughly half of the 2014 edition includes new content, including interviews with Reid, who has launched a crusade against the Kochs in Congress.
Tuesday's event showed two clips from the film: an overview of the Kochs’ political donations and the story of Erica Jackson, a minimum wage worker, who called the Kochs' opposition to a federal rate increase “ridiculous.”
A description for the film in a press packet given to reporters at the event described it as being created “for activists and communities to use as ammunition in the struggle to take the country back from the wealthiest and the politicians they fund.”
For a limited tine, Brave New Films is streaming the film for free online.