Don't completely blame politicians for being in the pockets of special interests. Blame the system, argues Pricele$$, a new documentary that attacks campaign financing. Running a campaign is an expensive business. "$4 million to lose, $8 million to win," remarks one senator. And it's big business that often fills those coffers.
Filmmaker Steve Cowan tackles just two of these industries: pesticides and big oil & gas, which he argues heavily influence agriculture and energy policy. Meanwhile, members of Congress spend time every day fundraising–time otherwise spent on policy-making. Cowan turns his camera to Arizona, where local politicians are running so-called "clean campaigns" in which they collect a certain number of small qualifying contributions to receive a flat sum of money from the government to run their campaigns. In return, they agree not to raise any other money from private sources. The idea is that once in office, they will be able to make decisions truly by and for the people. Cowan's arguments are detailed, informative and compelling, but the film falls short on visual and entertainment appeal. At an hour long it's a short doc, but it feels longer.
Pricele$$ screens at 7 p.m. at GALA Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th St. NW. $10. (202) 717-0700.