There is a chilling new documentary about the billionaire brothers, David and Charles Koch, that some Republicans do not want you to see. On Monday, Republican Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan tried to block an event at the Capitol unveiling the film, “Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition.” Miller claimed the documentary could violate House rules and “cross the line into partisan politics.” She unsuccessfully argued that showing the documentary was an inappropriate use of taxpayer-funded facilities. On Tuesday evening, the film event proceeded as planned. The updated documentary shows how the Koch brothers have used their vast fortunes to oppose government programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, as well as obstruct efforts to raise the minimum wage, tackle climate change and expand voting rights. We are joined by the film’s director, Robert Greenwald, founder and president of Brave New Films.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: There’s a chilling new documentary about the billionaire Koch brothers that some Republicans don’t want you to see. On Monday, Republican Representative Candice Miller of Michigan tried to block an event at the Capitol unveiling the film, Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition. Miller claimed the documentary could violate House rules and “cross the line into partisan politics.” She unsuccessfully argued that showing the documentary was an inappropriate use of taxpayer-funded facilities. On Tuesday evening, the film event proceeded as planned. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont all attended and spoke at the congressional press briefing where parts of the film were aired. This is the trailer for Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition.
UNIDENTIFIED: The Koch brothers are the poster boys for the top 1 percent. Their money, their power fuel the growing inequality in America.
JIM HIGHTOWER: The name Koch has become a four-letter word. Day in and day out, we see the Kochs using their billions to purchase politicians and policy, taking a terrible toll on democracy.
SEN. HARRY REID: Koch brothers, they are bound and determined to do away with government.
JIM HIGHTOWER: Stomping on poor people.
STEPHEN COLBERT: Billionaire industrialist Charles Koch said he wants to eliminate the minimum wage.
ERICA JACKSON: I think the fact that the Koch brothers are trying to take away minimum wage is ridiculous. I don’t see how a dollar could affect them. And I couldn’t imagine anybody making that much even being concerned with somebody making minimum wage. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
JIM HIGHTOWER: The most important thing is not that they have wealth. It’s that they’re using their immense fortune to run roughshod over the American people and grab more wealth for themselves. The Kochs have set the stage by building an ever-growing right-wing presence called Kochtopus. Through this vast network, scripts are written.
GOV. RICK PERRY: We instituted a photo ID requirement for every voter.
JIM HIGHTOWER: Actors are cast.
REP. JOE BARTON: Regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act is wrong and should not be allowed to stand.
JIM HIGHTOWER: And the show is played out on a national stage. But if the curtain is pulled back, we discover that the production is all under the direction of the Koch brothers.
AMY GOODMAN: Part of the trailer of the documentary, Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition. Charles and David Koch have funneled millions of dollars to conservative candidates and causes over the last four decades, also worked tirelessly to open the floodgates for money in politics. The Koch brothers’ net worth tops $100 billion, and they’re currently tied for fourth on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans.
For more, we’re going to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by the director of the new film, Koch Brothers Exposed. Robert Greenwald is the founder and president of Brave New Films.
So, Robert, tell us what happened on Capitol Hill. What was this controversy over your film?
ROBERT GREENWALD: Well, the controversy is really another example of how the Kochs work, which is they try to change the conversation. The Koch lawyer put out a statement. Immediately, then candidates who receive money from the Kochs picked up the statement and carried their water, in an effort to really stop free speech and prevent the public airing of the clips from the film. Of course, it can’t happen today, because millions of people are going to see the full film for free on the Internet, but it was really an effort to remove the—move the conversation, so that we weren’t talking about the fundamental issue, which is the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent, but there was some silly argument about could it be shown or could it not be shown—diversion, diversion and diversion.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Robert Greenwald, your film notes that each Koch brother makes $1.8 million every hour. It would take a minimum-wage worker 76 years to make that much money. I want to turn to a new clip in your updated film, Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition. This is Erica Jackson, a minimum-wage worker.
ERICA JACKSON: Being on minimum wage, it’s really hard getting by. I live on—my house is through Section 8, but—because I can’t afford to find anything extra or anything better. It’s really hard trying to get by.
I think the fact that the Koch brothers are trying to take away minimum wage is ridiculous.
I’m just filling out the forms that, well, my public assistance, they require in order to get assistance with anything. If minimum wage was just raised a dollar or two, I wouldn’t need public assistance.
Thirteen million a day sounds wonderful. And I couldn’t imagine anybody making that much even being concerned with somebody making minimum wage. It just doesn’t make sense to me how they could even consider taking it away or lowering it. If anything, I’d think they’d be giving back and helping us.
AMY GOODMAN: And in this clip of Koch Brothers Exposed, we see how the Koch brothers—this is Charles and David Koch; there are actually four—but how Charles and David Koch have attacked labor unions.
SCOTT HAGERSTROM: Really, what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees so they don’t have the resources to fight these battles.
LEE SAUNDERS: This is a coordinated effort, where you have ALEC and Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers and their allies spending millions and millions and millions of dollars to fight unions and to take this country backwards.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: The Koch brothers want to eliminate the ability for working folk to have power at either the ballot box or the bargaining table, so they try to eliminate trade unions.
LEE SAUNDERS: The Koch brothers not only want to destroy unions, but they want to destroy the lives of working people across this country.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: They do not want to have safety regulations. They do not want workers to be able to negotiate wages and benefits.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s a clip of Robert Greenwald’s new film, Koch Brothers Exposed, the 2014 edition. Robert, explain why you’ve made a new film. You had Koch Brothers Exposed, but you’ve just updated it.
ROBERT GREENWALD: The reason really was Citizens United, both the fact of Citizens United, the way the Koch brothers played a role in changing the law because they hadn’t liked it, so now they helped bring about Citizens United, and, of course, what we’re seeing now, which is just extraordinary, the sums of money, the literally hundreds of millions of dollars, spent in so many different ways.
Look, we have an amazing team of researchers. They’ve spent—they’ve literally been working 18, 20 hours a day trying to get the numbers, get the facts. So in addition to what’s public, there’s so much money that they hide. There’s the so-called Koch Bank. There are trusts set up. And we’re still tearing out our hair about how much more money that we’re not even knowing about.
So the film was an effort to talk about that and to bring up the new information—as you showed, the minimum wage clip, to update some of the information about how the Kochs give money to colleges with strings attached and the Catholic professors objecting to the money being given to Catholic University, to bring up some of the victories, where in North Carolina the local school board finally threw the Koch candidates out and brought—turned back their efforts to resegregate the schools. So there are some victories in all of this.
But most importantly, Amy, this is a tool. And the film is free. We wanted people to be able to see it for free, thanks to over 2,000 small donors, many people in your audience, and we want people to be able to take clips and sections of the film and forward it on, send the environmental clip on or send the union clip on or send the minimum wage clip.
AMY GOODMAN: You mention the environmental clip, Robert. Keystone XL—how does Charles and David Koch fit into this controversy, this battle that’s raging between the White House and many environmentalists around whether to approve the Keystone XL?
ROBERT GREENWALD: Well, the Kochs will be major beneficiaries if that is approved. They make an enormous amount of their money from oil. And if Keystone is approved, they will increase their profit, who knows how much. So they—and they get involved in every level, so it’s a good question. They get involved in funding the candidates. They get involved—who would—they get involved in funding attack ads. They get involved in think tank papers that would help justify Keystone. So it’s all across the board. They’re smart enough so they just don’t do it in any one way.
AMY GOODMAN: Robert Greenwald, I want to thank you for being with us, founder and president of Brave New Films, producer, director and activist, just released an updated version of his documentary, Koch Brothers Exposed. It’s the 2014 edition. When we come back, Daniel Schulman joins us, out with a brand new book, Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty. Stay with us.