FIlm Explores Dark Money and Elections
In the run-up to the election season, POV: Dark Money follows a Montana-based reporter’s investigation of one of the greatest threats to American democracy — the influence of unknown financing behind our elections.
The film, which premiered at Sundance, follows local Montana journalist John S. Adams, who is determined to uncover the truth about funding in his state’s elections. The film gains insights over the course of three election cycles, as it solves an increasingly complicated and blurred puzzle. Dark Money traces Adams’ steps and sheds light on the grassroots movement to unveil the mysterious financing behind our elections.
Dark Money has its national broadcast and streaming debut on the PBS documentary series POV and pov.org on Monday, October 1 at 9:00 p.m. and repeats the following night at 11:00 p.m. KUED will hold a free public screening and panel discussion Thursday, September 27 at 7:00 p.m at The City Library in Salt Lake City.
Panelists include Tim Chambless, retired professor of Political Science at the University of Utah; Rebecca Chavez-Houck, a member of the Utah State Legislature; Tom Huckin, a member of the Utah Chapter of Move to Amend; and lobbyist Doug Foxley.
The award-winning independent film offers numerous perspectives on dark money donations — the unlimited campaign contributions from undisclosed donors, individuals, and corporations, that have been allowed since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United.
“Dark money is the advertising where you don’t know who’s paying for the ads,” explains Llew Jones, a Montana state senator. “We’ve just simply got to hold these up and say, ‘Who is paying for this? What are they attempting to buy?’”
Filmmaker Kimberly Reed, whose family has lived in Montana for four generations, dives into these questions specifically as they regard the state, but the film draws parallels between the local influence of dark money in Montana and the effects of corporate political spending on a national scale.
In Montana, many of the voices against dark money are Republican. Debra Bonogofsky, a small business owner running for the Montana State House of Representatives on a campaign that promotes “fiscal responsibility” and small government, considers resisting dark money groups a matter of integrity: “If you don’t vote the way they want you to vote in the legislature they will target you the next primary,” she says, “even if you’re a conservative Republican.”
John S. Adams, former capital bureau chief for the Great Falls Tribune and creator of the Montana Free Press, is the leading investigator featured in the film. He notes that when campaigns can receive unlimited sums from anonymous donors, hidden from public scrutiny, the consequences are clear: “Then it’s not the people controlling the government — it’s the government controlled by a corporation controlling the people, which is like super-crazy Big Brother, but it’s happening.”
“This film will keep you on the edge of your seat,” said Justine Nagan, executive producer/executive director of POV/American Documentary. “Dark Money gives you a glimpse into what many of the most powerful people and groups don’t want you to see. It also gives voice to the many pioneers on both sides of the aisle in the crusade against unlimited, anonymous campaign contributions. In the run-up to yet another pivotal election season, this film is an important work examining some of the most crucial pillars of our democracy.”