In this lesson, students will examine a case study about how corporate donations to American political campaigns influence elections. Students will use film clips from the documentary Dark Money to learn how donations where the donor is undisclosed are used to finance political campaigns and how investigative journalism revealed the harm of this type of political spending in Montana. Students will increase their critical media analysis skills, their knowledge of campaign finance and their understanding of why an informed citizenry is necessary to a strong democracy. Students will apply what they learn to an election in their own community and gain a deeper understanding of how campaigns are funded and how money may influence elected representatives in local, state or federal office.
Note to Educators: Dark Money is an accessible yet complex story of campaign finance and corruption that touches on many critical issues, from the First Amendment to the Citizens United decision. This lesson focuses on strengthening media literacy to increase understanding of free and fair elections. See the Extensions/Adaptations section for resources related to other key issues raised by the film.