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Occupy San Miguel Shows Documentary on Corporate Influence on US Politics

By Jim Carey

The political thriller documentary Dark Money examines one of the greatest present threats to American democracy: the influence of untraceable corporate money on our elections and elected officials. Occupy SMA will show this documentary for free at the Quinta Loreto Hotel’s TV Room on April 1.

The documentary takes viewers to Montana—a front line in the fight to preserve fair elections nationwide—following an intrepid local journalist working to expose the real-life impacts of the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Through this gripping story, Dark Money uncovers how American elections are bought and sold. Kimberly Reed, director of the documentary Prodigal Sons, directed and produced this Sundance award-winning film with PBS producer Katy Chevigny.

The backstory to Dark Money begins after the Civil War, when in the 1880s, Butte, Montana, became the world’s greatest copper mining center, headed by the Copper Kings—the three industrialists William A. Clark, Marcus Daly, and F. Augustus Heinze. The Union Pacific Railroad built extensions there in 1881, allowing the developers to build and equip smelters like Anaconda, which quickly became the best in the world at extracting copper from ore.

But it wasn’t long before Butte began to pay a price for its riches: its air soon became filled with toxic sulfurous smoke. The city was being poisoned.

The corruption of local officials who allowed Butte’s contamination led to Montana`s Corrupt Practices Act of 1912, which regulated political money by prohibiting corporations from giving money to support or oppose candidates or political parties.

Almost 100 years later, in 2010’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that political spending is a form of free speech protected under the First Amendment. Montana resisted that ruling, and the Montana Supreme Court ruled in favor of the 1912 Corrupt Practices Act.

In 2012, the US Supreme Court held in American Tradition Partnership v. Montana that the Montana Supreme Court decision was inconsistent with the high court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. After that ruling, dark money arrived in Montana in a big way.

In Dark Money, we hear from Republican and Democratic citizen legislators who are appalled by the false advertising and massive amounts of money pouring into their elections. Jim Peterson, a former Montana senate president  and Republican, warns that dark money will eventually control public policy.

“It is no longer by the people and for the people,” he says.

Ann Ravel of the FEC warns in the film that campaign financing is at the heart of all discussions about public policy. When corporations pour money into secret PACs (political action committees) and then those PACs secretly divert money to other PACs to elect legislators who support corporate views, isn’t our democracy being perverted? Is it becoming a kleptocracy? Those are some of the questions we need to ask.

Join our discussion on Monday. It’s free.


Meeting, Film and Discussion

Dark Money

Mon, Apr 1, 1pm

Quinta Loreto Hotel

Loreto 15, TV room


Occupy San Miguel presents



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