Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have come under fire from the GOP over their scheduled screening of a controversial film attacking the billionaire conservative Koch brothers.
The Democratic Las Vegas senator and the Californian congresswoman were due to host the premiere of liberal filmmaker Robert Greenwald’s film "Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition" on Tuesday night at the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, according to reports.
But Republicans had claimed that the screening would violate congressional rules and could trigger an ethics investigation into Reid and Pelosi, who were due to take part in a question-and-answer session on money in politics at the premiere.
"Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that, but that’s a potential," House Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice Miller, the so-called mayor of Capitol Hill, told CQ Roll Call
before the scheduled event.
The Michigan Republican had warned Reid and Pelosi of the possible infraction in a letter Monday, arguing that the rules governing the use of the taxpayer-funded complex say that "no audio-visual presentations in the CVC may premiere, preview, showcase, or publicize a film," according to Politico.
Miller said she was concerned that the screening, which was largely due to air excerpts from the film, "may cross the line into partisan politics."
According to Roll Call, Reid had originally requested the massive CVC auditorium for the screening, but his plan was rejected by the House Administration Committee and Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on the grounds that it did not fit the definition of "official congressional business."
Pelosi then reserved a CVC meeting room, usually used by the House Democratic Caucus, for the screening. A spokesman for Pelosi said the congressional rules don’t apply to that room, Politico reported.
Reid defended the screening, saying, "There’s nothing that’s ethically wrong with our going to talk about some documentary. The man that has produced this documentary has produced seven other documentaries about the Iraq war, Afghanistan war, about the Koch brothers."
The senator, who has called the Koch bothers "un-American" and claimed that they are trying to buy the elections for the GOP, said that efforts to block the screening showed "how [the Koch brothers'] tentacles are in every part of the Republican congressional establishment."
He added, "That’s what the First Amendment used to be about until it became the Supreme Court’s — you have more free speech the more money you have."
The film, an updated version of the 2012 movie, centers on the political activity of industrialists Charles and David Koch, who founded the super PAC Prosperity for Americans, which donates to Republican candidates, conservative groups, and causes.
In a Huffington Post
blog this week titled "Exposing the Koch Brothers and the Price We All Pay," Greenwald said Charles and David Koch "are not just among the richest Americans — $100 billion and counting — they are deeply political libertarian industrialists."
He added: "They have worked in the shadows for decades to bend government to do their bidding or to destroy it, becoming richer while attacking social safety nets in many areas — environment, education, voting rights, union organizing. No other billionaire has that political track record."
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