David O. Russell: Political Corruption in "American Hustle" Is Nothing Compared to Citizens United

| Wed Dec. 18, 2013 4:56 PM EST

On Tuesday, the famously mercurial writer/director David O. Russell was in Washington, DC, for a special screening and Q&A session for his critically acclaimed, award-winning new film American Hustle. MSNBC host Chris Matthews moderated the Q&A, and Chris Dodd (the former Democratic senator and current chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, the de facto censorship board for cinema in the United States) introduced Russell.

American Hustle—starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Lawrence—is loosely based on events surrounding Abscam, a sting operation the FBI launched in the late '70s to target trafficking in stolen property. The bureau recruited con artist Melvin Weinberg to help craft and execute the operation, which involved setting up Abdul Enterprises, a fake company funded by fictitious Arab sheiks who offered to bribe people to pave the way for a new casino in Atlantic City. The operation morphed into an investigation of political corruption when politicians started approaching Abdul Enterprises for money. By the early '80s, Abscam had led to the conviction of one senator and six congressmen, among other political figures and officials. (The late Democratic congressman and Vietnam War vet John Murtha was also embroiled in the scandal, but escaped indictment and prosecution.)

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