The 2010 elections will prove to be a watershed of extravagant campaign spending, and how much is too much in the eyes of American voters. While the Citizens United decision has allowed unlimited anonymous campaign spending by businesses, this unprecedented ruling by the Supreme Court has incited citizens nationwide to take back our elections from the highest bidder.
In a sobering election year based on economic hardships, many candidates stressing their financial responsibility appear at odds with the way manage their campaigns, characterized by lavish spending with short-sighted goals. Worse still, while candidates and incumbents are now going out to their constituents to assure they will fight corporate America, most of them have already taken corporate America's money.
The reality of campaigns today is that there is never enough money to get your message out enough -- even to drown out your opponent's message by buying up outlets your opponent would otherwise purchase.
But in Ohio, I came across a candidate for Congress who has pledged a Clean Money campaign by taking no money from corporations, special interests, or PACs, Political Action Committees -- only one of two Congressional candidates to do so. Surya Yalamanchili -- or simply, "Chili" -- showed me how he has managed a streamlined campaign depending on individual donors while proving his moxie as a public servant by running his own show.
Chili was inspired to run by the hardships he has seen Ohio face, and believes that getting to Congress is a way to help his state. Chili believes that since it is the big money influence in Congress that has crippled our country, someone outside of that racket has to get there to be able to challenge it.
And to get that shot, Chili showed me the hustle he puts in. If Cincinnati native Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds was famously nicknamed "Charlie Hustle" for his tireless effort, Surya could surely be known has "Chili Hustle" for the legwork he does in the name of running a Clean Money campaign.
Here is a short about the grind of a political newcomer, pounding the pavement and showing where the money goes "when you can't pay to play with the big boys, but you still want to play."
This footage is from my documentary currently in production, PAY 2 PLAY: Democracy's High Stakes, which explores the Citizens United decision and shows how awesome campaign reform will be.
Surya "Chili" Yalamanchili is running as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives in Ohio's 2nd District, against the Republican incumbent, U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt. No endorsement is implied by this exposé on shoestring campaigning.