Citizens United the conservative non-profit organization best known for the U.S. Supreme Court case on campaign finance Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is preparing to release a feature documentary on Obama.
The Hope and the Change is an hour-long program that is scheduled to air on at least a dozen TV stations starting on Sept 21 and running through to Election Day. Politico reported the movie will run in its 60-minute entirety in an agreement with six cable networks like HDNet Movies and FamilyNet, along with local stations in Louisiana, Colorado, Indiana, Hawaii and Louisiana. The film is expected to reach 130 million homes. The film was first shown at the Republican National Convention in Tampa last month and will feature interviews with individuals who voted for Obama in 2008, and who are now disappointed with his performance. A trailer, complete with the gloomy soundtrack is posted on the Citizen website and you can pre-order the DVD.
The Hope and the Changerepresents the latest in what maybe a developing trend in political campaigning — the high quality, feature length political campaign ad vert. Citizens may have started this trend with Hillary: The Movie, a documentary that was critical of then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and was at the center of the now infamous SCOTUS decision.
In January the Super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich released King of Bain. The 28-minute film attacked Romney’s record at Bain Capital trying to portray him as a job-killing profiteer. The film was harshly criticized for being factually inaccurate which led to Gingrich requesting the film be withdrawn or edited to remove the misleading or inaccurate claims. The film was financed by a $5 million donation from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a longtime Gingrich supporter and benefactor.
In March, the Obama campaign released the 17-minute advert, The Road We Traveled. The documentary cost over $350,000 and was directed by Davis Guggenheim, whose credits includes the Academy Award-winning, An Inconvenient Truth. The documentary was narrated by Academy Award winner Tom Hanks and had over 300 screenings around the country. The film was dismissed by Republicans as nothing more than a slick piece of propaganda.
The strategy of buying prime-time programming slots on major networks is not new and has been utilized by political candidates for both presidential and state office. Ross Perot bought network time for his presidential bids in 1992 and 1996. Lyndon LaRouche regularly bought time on CBS and local stations in the 1980s. Organizations like the NRA routinely present their views through paid programming.
The Citizens United decision has taken that a step further and advanced the concept of the political infomercial. Citizens allows campaigns to buy larger, contiguous blocks of programming time and they can purchase those blocks with a lump sum contribution, donation or investment. More importantly, they are now tightly produced, heavily advertised and marketed like high quality films. David Bossie, president of Citizen United said, “This (the court case) is why I did ‘Citizens United.’” The downside of this new trend, as we saw with King of Bain is that they don’t necessarily have to be truthful or accurate.