You may have never heard his name, but David Bossie has already done plenty to influence the 2012 election and he’s not finished yet.
NBC's Michael Isikoff speaks with Citizens United President David Bossie on Aug. 26, 2012 about the Obama-critical film "The Hope and the Change," set to premiere this week in Tampa.
Now, the veteran conservative activist, whose political “oppo” movie-making triggered the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court that unleashed unlimited spending on campaign ads, is planning to make another big splash at this week’s GOP convention. This week, Bossie will be unveiling a new $5 million attack film depicting Barack Obama as an out of touch elitist whose presidency has been a complete failure.
The movie , “The Hope and The Change,” is the latest and most ambitious production yet of Citizens United—the conservative advocacy group that Bossie heads. It’s an ideological companion to “2016: Obama’s America,” another anti-Obama movie by conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza that made a surprisingly strong showing in the box office last weekend.
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In Bossie’s movie, an advance copy of which he shared with NBC News, a parade of 40 voters—all of whom say they voted for Obama in 2008 and many with hard luck stories – vent about bailouts, subsidies for the wealthy, health care and their utter disillusionment with the president.
“There are some really unbelievably powerful moments in this film where you get choked up over,” says Bossie, as he discussed his high hopes for the movie in an interview Sunday. “ Because these people, they’re your average Americans. These are average Americans.”
The voters seen in the film weren’t selected by accident. They were culled from thousands of participants in focus groups in key battleground states conducted for Citizens United by Patrick Cadell, the one- time Jimmy Carter pollster (and now a regular commentator on Fox News.) Cadell teamed up with Bossie and director Steve Bannon—former executive chairman of Breitbart.com, the website of the late conservative activist Andrew Breitbart-- to make “The Hope and The Change.”
“It’s really a story of these 40 Democrats and Independents and their lives over the last four years,” says Bossie. “They bought into the hope and change. They bought into the rhetoric of, ‘I’m a uniter, not a divider.’ ... If conservatives can learn to talk these people – this group of people – they’re going to be able to win a lot of elections.
Not all of the commentary made by the voters in the film would withstand the scrutiny of fact checkers. Several complain about big bail-outs to big banks (“Nobody came to help me and bail me out,” one says) with no mention that it was actually President Bush, not Obama, who approved the TARP bail-out to banks in late 2008.
But even more arresting moments than the stories of these voters may be shots in “The Hope and The Change” of adoring, near hysterical crowds watching Obama speeches in 2008 -- images that one critic has already compared to scenes from the movies of Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl. (Bossie, for his part, rejects the comparison, saying he’s never even seen any of Riefenstahl’s movies.)
As the movie progresses, these are followed by repeated clips of a seemingly carefree president shooting hoops, playing golf, yucking it up with Hollywood celebrities and taking vacations in Hawaii and Martha’s Vinyard—all while Bossie’s “average Americans” are suffering.
Bossie, who earned his spurs as a congressional investigator on the Whitewater investigation and other Clinton era probes, has invited hundreds to the world premier of “The Hope and The Change,” Tuesday afternoon at Liberty Plaza—a sprawling white tent a few blocks from the Tampa Convention Center where Citizens United, the super PAC American Action Network, and a host of other companies and lobbying organizations have set up entertainment centers and rest areas for the delegates and GOP lawmakers.
But Bossie says the big impact from his film will become later this week when he announces what he is touting as a “major TV deal” to air his movie on its entirety on cable. (Portions were aired last Friday night on a special Sean Hannity show.) Following that, Bossie says, the movie will be spliced up and turned into Citizens United attack ads that will run right up to election day.
In producing “The Hope and The Change,” Bossie says he takes his inspiration from Michael Moore, the famed leftwing filmmaker whose “Fahrenheit 911” skewered then-President George W. Bush before the 2004 election.
Indeed, Bossie says it was Moore who prompted him and Citizens United to do an earlier attack movie on Hillary Clinton that led to the now famous Supreme Court decision rejecting restrictions on big money attack ads in political campaigns.
“Michael Moore made a film attacking George Bush, and he didn’t let the facts get in the way of a good storyline,” says Bossie. “ What we did was want to be able to do the same thing. That’s what the Citizens United case emanated from. .. And that’s why in 2008 I went to the United States Supreme Court to fight for my right, and it took me many years. And in 2010 we finally won our victory.”
Now, Bossie says, the legal gloves are off: He can make whatever film he wants, spend as much as he can raise to influence the election (and not tell anybody where the money comes from) and not worry about the Federal Election Commission coming after him.
“This is the first election cycle that we are now legally able to make a political documentary and show it and its ads on television,” he says. “And we’re really excited about that.”