A New TV Series, "The Swamp"

"The Swamp" - on Facebook, of all places - purports to document the shady backroom deals that infest politics and politicians in Washington D.C. The Federalist explains.

Every grassroots political activist knows something is deeply wrong in Washington, D.C. No matter how hard we work to send good people to Congress, the majority of them go native upon arrival, forgetting their campaign rhetoric and falling in line with the political establishment. The few who retain their principles often seem sidelined and ineffective. Meanwhile, the legislative process is an unfunny joke: the Republican Congress can’t manage to keep its promises and repeal Obamacare, but it can pass a 2,232-page, $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill without reading it.

What’s less clear is why the system is so broken, and what happens to turn our hometown congressmen into swamp critters. What is going on in those smoke-filled rooms? When brand-new representatives and senators arrive in D.C., what do they find?

A new documentary series, “The Swamp,” seeks to answer those questions, pulling back the curtain on the inner workings of Capitol Hill. Created by 28-year-old filmmaker Matt Whitworth, “The Swamp” has been releasing episodes to Facebook since April 4, with three 10-minute episodes released to date.

For a documentary featuring members of Congress, “The Swamp” is striking in how unfiltered it feels. Whitworth was granted unprecedented access to film and interview several House members as they work, meet with staff, and visit with constituents back home. Shockingly, the congressmen signed a film participation release relinquishing all editorial and creative control of the project.

. . .

“The Swamp” focuses heavily on the top-down power structure in Washington, D.C., where just a few party leaders make the majority of decisions, punishing members who won’t toe the line. After watching the first three episodes, I found these six revelations the most striking:

1. Partisan gridlock? Nah, the parties work together when they want to.

“We have a bipartisan bankruptcy going on,” Rep. Buck says near the beginning of Episode 1. “I think both parties are engaged in a quiet deal that we will support our base, and if it leads to bankruptcy, okay, and you will support your base, and if it leads to bankruptcy, okay.”

In Episode 2, the congressmen cite an example: Republican and Democrat leadership worked together to make sure the bloated omnibus spending bill came up for a vote. When a number of conservative Republicans voted against the rule in an attempt to stop the bill, the Democrats changed just enough of their customary “no” votes to make sure it passed.

“You could just see the Democrats huddled around Nancy Pelosi, and she would just send the next one down to make sure that the rule passed,” Buck recalls. “When it comes to bankrupting the country, they cooperate all the time.”

Watch "The Swamp" here.

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