All the Queen's Horses

Dixon, Illinois—the hometown of Ronald Reagan—got an unexpected lesson in government waste, fraud, and abuse in 2012 when Rita Crundwell, its treasurer and comptroller, was charged with having embezzled $53 million over 20 years. This Kartemquin documentary by Kelly Richmond Pope frames municipal fraud as a global problem, noting on a world map the various millions that have been stolen from taxpayers in the U.S. and abroad. Despite this high-minded approach, however, the documentary’s best moments are pure tabloid (as interview subjects recall Crundwell’s arrest by the FBI, the camera traces her steps through city hall into the room where agents lay in wait). The perpetrator was a trusted figure in town (“She looks after every tax dollar as if it were her own,” said one commissioner), and her thriving side business as a horse breeder enabled her to launder large amounts of money. The city later sued its outside auditor and Fifth Third Bank, winning a $40 million settlement, and the people of Dixon voted to institute a more progressive city government with a nonpartisan manager.