Few serious observers of American politics would claim that corporate interests are underrepresented in the halls of Congress. After all, over the past two years alone, corporate special interests have spent hundreds of millions of dollars weakening health care legislation, undermining financial reform, stalling a climate change bill, and eviscerating the expansion of workers’ rights. Many of these same corporate interests are continuing to spend millions during the run up to the election, often hiding their donations behind front groups with innocuous sounding names like Americans For Job Security.
One candidate for federal office is taking the battle against these big corporate interests into his own hands. Surya Yalamanchili — a former Apprentice contestant who, as ThinkProgress previously noted, faced attacks during his primary that someone with his name can’t win — is the Democratic nominee for Congress to take on Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) in Ohio’s 2nd district. Yalamanchili is running his campaign without taking a dime from Political Action Committees (PACs), which are “organized for the purpose of raising and spending money to elect and defeat candidates,” and are often vehicles for corporate special interests. He is the only major candidate — defined here as anyone raising more than $100,000 — for federal office who is running without help from PACs, other than Connecticut’s GOP US Senate Linda McMahon, who is self-financing her election with tens of millions of dollars of her personal wealth. That means Yalamanchili is the only major candidate running for federal office who is both refusing to take PAC money and not financing his campaign out of his personal wealth.
Of course, standing on principle puts Yalamanchili at a significant financial disadvantage against his opponent Schmidt. Thanks to the deep pockets of special interests such as the American Bankers Association and Citigroup, Schmidt raised more funds from PAC money through September 30th than Yalamanchili has from individual donors. The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets website illustrates the funding advantage that his opponent has:
Yet Yalamanchili does not regret standing up for the principle of clean elections. In an interview with ThinkProgress, the candidate told us, “Every politician running for office agrees on the need for reform in the financing of our elections. But nothing ever happens because these same politicians were elected through abusing that very process. I chose to turn away all special interest money because it’s the right thing to do on principle, it will allow me to work only for the people, and because I want to show future candidates a viable path to victory without selling out.”
Director John Wellington Ennis, who is filming the upcoming campaign finance documentary “PAY 2 PLAY: Democracy’s High Stakes,” interviewed Yalamanchili for his film. Watch an excerpt:
Zxbe writes, “I applaud Surya for his stance. We so desperately need campaign finance reform. The money part of the equation is completely out of hand.”