June 13, 2014 at 1:00 am

Review: 'Citizen Koch' restates the obvious about money and politics

'Citizen Koch' is not about the Koch brothers, but it is a documentary that is a rehash of 2011's union-busting in Wisconsin. (Variance Films)

“Citizen Koch” is something of a sham.

One might reasonably expect that a film with that name would offer an investigation into and insights about the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, who have bankrolled the Tea Party and poured untold millions into right-wing Republican causes over the years.

Instead, “Citizen Koch” is mostly a movie about the anti-union movement in Wisconsin.

Of course, a film titled “Wisconsin Woes” probably wouldn’t grab a lot of attention. Calling it “Citizen Koch” makes it sound as if the favorite (and certainly deserved) punching bags of the left are going to be put on the spot. It has built-in appeal to liberal audiences.

Well, the movie is certainly for liberal audiences, but they’re unlikely to learn anything new about the Kochs from it. Their father founded the John Birch Society, they’re filthy rich, they like spending money on political causes that will make them even more filthy rich. Anyone who watches “The Colbert Report,” reads a newspaper or has the Internet likely already knows this.

In fact, the movie is mostly a rehash of things already known. When the Supreme Court shifted to the right during the Bush administration, it opened the doors for corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to so-called political action committees, a Koch-backed initiative. Since then, Republican causes and campaigns have benefited heavily from wealthy donors pushing conservative agendas.

This hit Wisconsin particularly hard when Republican Gov. Scott Walker went union-busting in 2011. The film follows a number of one-time Wisconsin Republicans who found themselves adversely effected. It watches the state’s recall effort, and Walker’s heavily funded win against that recall. Again, straight from “Colbert,” without the laughs.

The movie also tracks former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer’s quixotic bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Roemer only accepted small donations. Guess what? He never even made it to the debate stage.

The overall point made, obviously, is that corporate money is poisoning, and ruling, American politics. The only problem with that point is — well, duh.

Anyone who doesn’t already realize that isn’t going to go to this movie. Anyone who does, doesn’t need to see this movie. And anyone who goes hoping to learn much about the Koch brothers is going to feel pretty ripped off.

The sad thing is, there are so many unexplored areas here that do deserve films, including a serious investigation of the Kochs. The politicization of the Supreme Court, the gullibility of voters, the inherent contradictions of the Tea Party movement, the power of television ads, a list could go on. Preaching to the choir and restating the obvious seems pointless.

'Citizen Koch'


Not rated

Running time: 90 minutes


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