“How a film about Obama’s communist ‘real father’ won at the FEC”


There’s little evidence that the film, directed by Joel Gilbert, moved votes. It was not a “birther” advertisement — Gilbert never questioned that Obama was eligible to be president — but in focus groups conducted for Republicans, it alienated more voters than it attracted. While Gilbert financed the film itself, anonymous backers helped send it to swing states. At the time, the Republican Party and Mitt Romney’s campaign wanted nothing to do with the new “Dreams.”

In 2014, a progressive activist named Loren Collins filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against Gilbert, arguing that the filmmaker had a responsibility to disclose his donors. The FEC finally weighed in last month, and in a typical 3-3 split decision — by law, the FEC is perpetually split between Democratic and Republican commissioners — Gilbert’s DVD mailing was considered “press,” not subject to donor disclosure, comparable to any political documentary.

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