Fresh off an unsuccessful run for president, former Gov. Buddy Roemer said Monday that special interests have taken over America’s political system and are responsible for the congressional intransigence on Capitol Hill.
“Citizens do not now fund campaigns,” Roemer told about 35 people attending the Press Club of Baton Rouge. “It’s corrupt when the size of your contribution determines your place in line.”
Roemer also said he did not think Gov. Bobby Jindal would be selected as running mate to presumed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“He (Jindal) has a lot of skills, I’ll say that. I don’t think he’ll be selected,” Roemer said, adding he has no inside information.
“If I’m Romney, I’m thinking, ‘What state must I carry?’ ... Romney’s vice president will come from Florida or Ohio. That’s my gut feeling.”
Roemer, 68, predicted the vote in November would be close because neither challenger Romney nor President Barack Obama has given voters a reason to excite support.
“America is polarized. You can’t really choose a reason to leave the comfort of your polarization,” Roemer said. “It is all flash dance and polarization. We are a nation in trouble.”
Roemer blamed a campaign finance system in which special interests write huge checks and candidates rewrite government policy to appease the check writers.
The number of exemptions written into the tax code is evidence of the influence of lobbyists representing corporations, industries and professions, Roemer said.
“Lobbying has now become a check-writing exercise,” he said.
Roemer, who was governor from 1988 to 1992, said he came to the Press Club to discuss changing the way campaigns are financed. He recalled his July 24 testimony on the issue before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He suggested changes to existing law that he said would go a long way to improving public support of candidates and limiting the influence of special interests.
Congress could make changes that would require full disclosure of all contributions, reporting of all political transactions within 48 hours, no financial contributions or assistance from lobbyists, limiting the contributions of political action committees to the same amount individuals are allowed to give, forbidding congressmen from lobbying for at least five years and establishing criminal penalties for infractions.
“I didn’t go to Washington to round up support,” Roemer said. Nevertheless, he counted about 28 senators and about 90 representatives backing the proposals.
“We’re trying to build the momentum on that,” Roemer said.
He served in Congress from 1981 to 1988.
Roemer said he limited contributions and raised $753,000 in his bid for the presidency.
His campaign received $350,000 in federal funds. He started out running as a Republican, then dropped his party affiliation during the race.
Roemer was not allowed to debate in any of the 23 primary events because he failed to raise $500,000 during the previous 90-day period, he said. By the time he dropped out of the race, Roemer said, national polls had him with 7 percent of the vote and with a 15 percent name recognition rating.