There’s a recurring graphic in The Swamp, a new HBO documentary riffing on the Trump campaign’s (false) promise to drain Washington of moneyed interests, in which vines overrun the Rotunda as it sinks into a gooey morass. The lure of corruption, and the entrenchment of money, is all-encompassing – a rare shared point between America’s two political parties, and a thesis of a film attempting to pull back the curtain on business as usual in Washington.
Directors Morgan Pehme and Daniel DiMauro were not strangers to corruption in American politics; the two directed the 2017 documentary Get Me Roger Stone, a film about the Trump campaign consultant who was sentenced to 40 months in prison for corruption charges (Trump commuted his sentence last month). But the two did not expect to find commonality on the issue of corruption in Congress in Drain the Swamp, a book invoking the Trump slogan by a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, Colorado representative Ken Buck.
The duo, self-described liberals, read the first seven or so chapters and were surprised to find themselves thinking, “we’re on the same page with this conservative member of the Freedom Caucus about how the rich donors and special interests are controlling and perverting our government,” Pehme told the Guardian. Then they got to the chapter on Buck’s argument for the end of the Endangered Species Act, and it was, “Oh, right, we’re not on the same page with you at all.”
Still, the near-overlap with progressive calls from the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to cleanse Washington of big-money donors seemed like a window into the deliberately opaque and confusing world of congressional fundraising. Filming Buck and two fellow Republican lawmakers – Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Matt Gaetz of Florida in their DC offices, at their homes, at campaign stops and constituent visits – could offer “a chance to take the American public behind closed doors in Congress for the first time and show them how the sausage is made”, said Pehme
Continued in The Guardian…