The Big Buy's Pushback Op-Ed

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The Austin American-Statesman runs an op-ed this morning by Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck, the filmmakers who followed Ronnie Earle for two years as he sought the truth about what happened with TRMPAC, DeLay, his associates and the 2002 election.The movie they produced, The Big Buy, was finished in August, but events in late September (a few indictments) conspired to encourage them to film a new ending. The film's existence, though, has set off a torrent of criticism, and publicity, that somehow it's evidence that Earle is using the DeLay indictments as a political tool to further his "agenda."

Here's what Birnbaum and Schermbeck say about that:

Since we began, control over the film's content has rested solely with us. Earle never saw even one foot of footage until after the film had premiered to good reviews at the Dallas Video Fesitval on Aug. 7. That's right — the film was finished more than a month before a Travis County grand jury indicted DeLay on a charge of violating state campaign laws.

"The Big Buy" is the same film it was before that event; the stakes are just higher now for all parties, including the American people. We want our work to speak for itself and let the public be the judge.

I, for one, am looking forward to seeing this movie -- I will post a review of it here when I do -- and forward to judging it for what it is, not the right wing's claims about it.

Birnbaum and Schermbeck want their work to view as an historical record, not any different from news coverage:

We've recorded the same Travis County district attorney whom every news organization covering this case has recorded. We just paid more attention for a longer time than most. That's what documentary filmmakers do. Those that consider Earle a villain and DeLay his victim will find things in our film to support their belief. Those who think DeLay is up to no good and Earle is the hero will likewise be supported in their views. We are equal-opportunity storytellers.

In short, we're basically doing the same job as the Statesman's own excellent reporter, Laylan Copelin. We're just doing it with a camera.

This is what puzzles us about our critics' reaction — access to Earle is OK when it's on behalf of readers or TV news viewers, but it's not OK when it's on behalf of viewers of a documentary?

What I think DeLay and his allies are so concerned about is this: The facts of this case are damning that when they are presented in a compelling manner it's all going to make perfect sense to average people that DeLay went too far.

The publicity around this movie is building. They've been invited to submit it to Sundance, a source tells me. Birnbaum and Schermbeck also are discussing a theatrical release -- something relatively unheard of for documentaries like this, unless you're Michael Moore.

And expect the publicity to continue to build for this film, even before the new version is done: Lawyers for Jim Ellis and John Colyandro have indicated they will subpoena all the footage. I think the makers of The Big Buy should gladly cooperate, including the footage of Ellis's and Colyandro's lawyer, who was taped for the film.