By Randy LoBasso (Philadelphia Weekly)
It was billed as “the first film since Grizzly Man to show how nature can get revenge on man when pushed to its limits”—and it woke a lot of people up. The 2013 documentary Blackfish explored SeaWorld water parks’ alleged mistreatment of their killer whales and employees, as well as the 2010 drowning death of park trainer Dawn Brancheau.
Here’s something we didn’t learn in the film, though: Not long after Brancheau’s death, SeaWorld, which has continued to feature the now-infamous orca Tilikum in its shows, started a political action committee—perhaps unsurprising, considering the potential regulatory repercussions the tragedy could have on the fish-and-whale-captivity-for-kicks business. And the PAC’s been spending a bunch of money.
The campaign-finance website OpenSecrets.org puts the PAC’s spending at about $103,000—and that’s in addition to the $263,965 the company has directly given to political campaigns since 2009, plus $4,240,000 on political lobbying efforts. Meanwhile, the park’s profit, stock price and credit rating have all been suffering this year, and recently SeaWorld has, for the first time, publicly attributed those misfortunes to the impact of the documentary.