Rejected by ITVS, Citizen Koch rakes in Kickstarter dough

By Andrew Lapin

Citizen Koch, a documentary about the growing influence of money in politics that lost a public TV commitment in December, has taken in more than $100,000 on Kickstarter in less than a week.

The Independent Television Service (ITVS) approved $150,000 in funding based on a written proposal of the film, then titled Citizen Corp., in April 2012. However, according to ITVS, directors Carl Deal and Tia Lessin altered the storyline and changed the title to focus more on prominent Republican donors David and Charles Koch. The filmmakers contend that the finished film is “identical in premise and execution” to their initial proposals.

ITVS officials told Current that they had never signed an agreement with the producers to fund the program or present it for broadcast on Independent Lens.

As chronicled in the New Yorker by Jane Mayer, ITVS’s rejection of the revised film project followed Independent Lens‘s presentation of the documentary Park Avenue, which was critical of David Koch, a major donor to such PBS series as Nova who served on the boards of both New York’s WNET and Boston’s WGBH. After the film aired, David Koch reportedly withdrew a planned large donation to WNET and resigned from the station’s board; President Neal Shapiro subsequently threatened to pull Independent Lens from the station’s schedule. (Koch continues to serve on WGBH’s board.)

Following publication of Mayer’s New Yorker article, ITVS told Current it rejected Deal and Lessin’s funding request for Citizen Koch because early cuts of the film did not match the directors’ initial proposal. It posted a full statement on its website May 28.

Deal and Lessin took to the popular crowdfunding platform on July 9, asking donors for $75,000, to help cover post-production costs and position the film for wider distribution. “We believe that your voice can be louder than David Koch’s money,” they wrote in their Kickstarter post. Helped by publicity from prominent figures such as Michael Moore, the duo met their original goal in less than three days and have already surpassed it by more than $30,000. The campaign closes August 8.

The Kochs have a long history of aggressively combating portrayals of them in the media, as detailed in a July 14 Washington Post story.

This post has been revised to include a statement from the filmmakers regarding their initial proposal to ITVS and to clarify ITVS’s role a funder.
Update (7/23/13): This post has been updated to include a statement from ITVS.
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