By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
No DeLay:Until last week, only one publication--this one--had written a word about Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck's documentary The Big Buy, about Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle's investigation into the doings of the Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee (TRMPAC), which, during the 2002 election season, spread some $700,000 in corporate contributions among Republican legislative candidates in Texas. Not only couldn't the filmmakers find anyone interested in writing about their movie, they couldn't find anyone interested in funding it.
Then they got their happy ending, when an Austin grand jury indicted U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on September 28 on a charge of criminally conspiring to use the DeLay-created Texans for a Republican Majority money to help Republicans take the Texas House. DeLay got more bad news Monday, when a different grand jury indicted him on charges of money-laundering stemming from the same investigation.
Turns out the bad news for DeLay is good news for Birnbaum and Schermbeck: Suddenly they're fielding not only requests from ABC, CBS and CNN, but also movie distributors interested in taking a peek. On Monday, Birnbaum got a call from the Sundance Film Festival informing him that the fest's organizers were interested in seeing the movie to determine whether it merited a spot.
"Jesus Christ, it's been crazy," Birnbaum says. "It all started on [September 28]. I got a call from Byron York, a writer for The National Review...York said, 'Gee I just heard about your film from a colleague.' I said, 'Really?' He said, 'Yeah, can we do an interview?' So we did one, 15 minutes later it was online, and 10 minutes after that it was on The Drudge Report. The world's been calling since then."
Some have called or e-mailed to claim that Earle granted the filmmakers not only extraordinary access to him, but also to secret grand jury testimony against DeLay, a charge Birnbaum calls "outrageous."
"The mere existence of the film seems to prove to some people certain things they believe to be true abut Ronnie Earle--that he's publicity seeking, that he had it in for DeLay from the beginning. The existence of the film was fueling these perceptions and these crazy things, like we'd been privy to secret evidence." --Robert Wilonsky