May 10, 2010

One of the films I’m looking forward to most this year is Casino Jack and the United States of Money by Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side).  The film explores the dominance of how large corporate contributions to political campaigns has corrupted our government and I would argue that most Americans already know that.  So how is Casino Jack revelatory?  Because while we may know the why, we haven’t explored how.  For instance, have you ever heard about “carried interest”?  I hadn’t, but this new webisode informed me that “carried interest” refers to the millions (and billions) of dollars earned in commissions by private equity and hedge fund managers.  They pay 15% in federal income taxes on it.  By contrast, professions like teachers and firefighters pay up to 28%.  And yes, while 15% of $30 million is more money than 28% of $30,000, a person who makes $30 million and gives up 15% ain’t starving.  And if you think Casino Jack is a liberal agit-prop against Republicans, this webisode makes no qualms about calling Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) “The Senator from Wall Street”.

Hit the jump to check out the full webisode and click here to read the interview we did with Gibney.  Casino Jack and the United States of Money is already out in a limited release and will expand to more cities over the following weeks.

Here’s the official synopsis for Casino Jack and the United States of Money:

High rollers in Indian casinos, hookers in Saipan, a murdered Greek tycoon, Cold War spy novels, plush trips to paradise… and the United States Congress. These are among the intriguing clues that add up to the epic mystery behind one of the greatest attempted heists in American history.

It’s a twisting tale in which a small group of charming con men use the power of the purse, the zealotry of religion and bare-knuckled political brawling to loot the American government for fun, ideals and profit. It’s about ambitious young men who wanted to change the world, the politicians who needed their money, the corporations and gambling-rich tribes who desired their influence — and how millions were extorted and the foundations of our democracy imperiled in the toxic mix of power and cash.

From Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney (Taxi to The Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) comes the outrageous inside story of CASINO JACK And The United States Of Money. Revealing our broken system of lobbying and campaign finance, the film is a true American comedy…but the joke is alarmingly on us.

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