TheDC Exclusive: Documentary filmmakers try to get government funding for ‘Museum of Government Waste’
Could Congress be persuaded to spend taxpayer money on a Museum of Government Waste?
That’s what filmmakers Ellen and Jim Hubbard of Nevada have been trying to figure out for the last five years.
The couple is releasing a film — set to come out this year — about their quest to obtain an earmark from Congress for a museum dedicated to wasteful government spending.
The point of the film and project, Ellen Hubbard said, is to show the absurdity of what special pet projects Congress chooses to spend money on and the process one has to go through in order to obtain an earmark.
“In the beginning it started off as, ‘what’s the ultimate ridiculous earmark that we can come up with?’” Hubbard said in a phone interview with The Daily Caller, referencing taxpayer-funded museums dedicated to magic, wheels, tea pots and prison.
Despite understanding that they would be unlikely to actually obtain such an earmark, the Hubbards made a serious go at it anyway.
“We ended up hiring a lobbyist, we met with members of Congress, their staffs, several lobbyists,” Ellen Hubbard said.
“We never ever thought we would get an earmark just as regular citizens, let alone an earmark for something this crazy,” she added. “But we really authentically tried to get it.”
In meetings on Capitol Hill, they would say the museum has a wealthy backer who wants the government to support it with an earmark.
“And once you tell them about a wealthy backer, it was weird,” Hubbard said. “All of them acted the same way. The conversation shifted from ‘what’s your earmark’ to ‘how can we get this done.’ It was eye opening.”
The filmmakers recruited the help of a friend, radio talk show host Greg Knapp, who stars in the movie. They also got creative with their filming techniques.
“Obviously when you meet with a member of Congress or a staffer or a lobbyist and you’re really trying to get the straight dope, you can’t bring two cameras and a sound engineer with you,” she said. “So that’s when we wore hidden cameras.”
After five years of filming, Hubbard is tight-lipped about how successful they were in actually obtaining federal dollars for the museum.
“I’m not going to tell you because that’s really the point of watching the film,” she said.
But using private money, she and her husband plan to follow up on the film by actually opening up a Museum of Government Waste this year. David Williams of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance will run it.
Williams — who also contributed to the film — admits he was skeptical about helping out at first. “I really don’t want to be condoning someone getting an earmark,” he told TheDC. “It goes against every fiber of my being.”
But he says he jumped on board when he realized the museum would only be funded by private money and they were doing it as a “lark” to “expose Washington’s ways and how it works.”
“And after talking to them and doing a few interviews, it really dawned on me that maybe we really should have this museum,” he said.
“Why not have a space in Washington D.C. where we could have pictures of members of Congress — a hall of shame. We could have individual items. We could have tea pots to represent the tea pot museum and have rotating exhibits.”
They’re still working out the details, but the museum is slated to be in Washington. Williams plans to move his organization, the Tax Payers Protection Alliance, into the same space as the museum.
Williams said the film and museum “really is non-partisan. We don’t go after one party”
“My philosophy is that there are bad people in both parties,” he said.
“I think that’s why I really connected with Jim and Ellen so much. They didn’t want to push a political agenda, Republican or Democrat. They were looking at the issue really from a taxpayer point of view.”
Hubbard, who along with her husband founded the American Film Renaissance non-profit film institute in 2004, said the film was mostly funded by the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.
The film is in the final stages of editing. They’re shopping for distributors now.
“I think people are just going to be shocked at the extent of the pay to play culture,” Hubbard said of the film. “It is not something that any type of ban or moratorium is going to put a dent in.
WATCH: The movie’s trailerhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwsX4bdqeI8