In a political field where so many of the players are typecast, Buddy Roemer is unique. What is it that sets Buddy Roemer apart? He has refused to take corporate money. In fact, Roemer won’t even accept donations over $100 from private donors.
While this fiscal prudence saves him from being beholden to special interests, an affliction shared by so many of our political leaders, this is also probably why most people have never heard of him.
Here are some highlights I complied from a recent interview Roemer gave the Harvard Review and an article in the Atlantic about Roemer’s unusual candidacy. Find the entire Atlantic article here and the transcribed Harvard Review interview here.
Roemer on the corrupting influence of money in politics:
“Big corporations leverage huge campaign contributions to get politicians to shower the companies with trade, tax and spending benefits to the detriment of ordinary Americans.”
“Our system is corrupt. Big checks come before people’s needs, small businesses, and fair trade with China. We are a corrupt society at the top in terms of politics…I deeply believe that Washington has been the capital of corruption, and then only an independent, free-to-lead president could turn this country around.”
On the other Republican candidates:
“We have five or six decent people running, but they won’t get the job done because they are slaves to money. Some politicians live for service. Other politicians make their living from service. There’s a big difference. Newt to me is a classic. He makes his living off politics.”
[The other candidates] can ask me where I get my money from. I get my money from thousands of Americans who give me an average of $60 each. Then I can ask them where they get their money. And they don’t want to answer that. Mitt Romney doesn’t want to say, “Well, a friend of mine gave me a million dollars, which she did.” I mean, Jon Huntsman doesn’t want to say “Well, I formed an organization so that my billionaire father can give me as much money as I want. And I don’t have to tell you about it.” Newt Gingrich can say, “I’ve got a PAC with 9 people who gave $300,000 each, and I don’t have to report it.” This is why debates are important for me, yet I haven’t been asked to go to a single one, and it has been the most disappointing thing in this campaign.
“Look at Obama. All that hope and promise. No changes….Guess who he’s raising (money) from? The very banks he’s supposed to regulate. He went to Wall Street, had a fund-raiser. $35,800 a ticket. And you know who the host was? Goldman Friggin’ Sachs.”
On OWS and PACs:
“I went down to Wall Street and listened. I mean, I run because of my experiences in Louisiana with corruption, and I was able to see how much good we were able to do by throwing the corruption out. I see the same potential in Washington. I see in the occupy movement an acknowledgement of my issue. I mean, we were saying, “We can smell it”. Something is wrong with America, it is not healthy when the average bank CEO makes a thousand times more than the average bank clerk.”
Roemer’s anti-establishment views prompted him to become the only Republican candidate to embrace the Occupy Wall Street movement. He is limiting contributions to no more than $100 per donor, not accepting PAC money and arguing that Super PACs are illegal.
Previous Legislative Record:
As governor, Roemer first got the legislature to end unlimited campaign contributions. At his bidding, it also raised teacher salaries, required teacher evaluations, plugged a massive budget deficit and toughened enforcement against the state’s notorious oil and gas polluters.
Record in the Private Sector:
A banker before he entered Congress, Roemer founded a community bank, sold it and made a pile of money.
In 2006, he started Business First Bank in Baton Rouge. Under his watch, it has grown to more than $500 million in assets. “We didn’t foreclose on a single mortgage holder. We didn’t take any bailout money. I’ve been creating jobs.”
I like what Buddy Roemer stands for. Until we are able to divorce money and politics, we will never have a system that works for the majority of people who aren’t wealthy enough to buy influence.
Project Vote Smart has projected these positions for Roemer on a number of “issues of the day.” See the full analysis of Roemer’s positions here. I disagree with Roemer on many issues, but most of the issues more nuanced and a candidates position cannot be fully explored in a Yes or No format. Roemer’s main issue, the corrupting influence of money in national politics, is at the top of my list, so at the very least, he merits further research.
So while I like Roemer, and I think we need more politicians like him, I am not quite ready to give him money or plan to cast my vote for him.
Appearance on Morning Joe:
Appearance on the Daily Show:
The Occupy Wall Street Protests have been the subject of a vigorous family discussion at all recent family gatherings. At Thanksgiving my left-leaning nuclear family was divided on how we felt about the protests. At pre-Christmas brunch we added my “not at all left-leaning” Uncle and Ron Paul loving cousin, threw in a pitcher of Bloody Mary and watched the sparks fly.But one idea we all agree on is that the current system heavily favors those with a lot of money, at the expense of everyone else, and that is bad.
And given the fact that 46.2 million Americans are living in poverty and another 97.3 million Americans are defined as low-income, it is hard not to think that America is becoming that great party that most people can’t get in to. Find the census data here.
When looking at the popular uprisings fueled by extreme economic inequality around the world, from the Arab Spring to Europe, it is hard not to think we are heading towards an “American Crossroad.” (Irony intended). The percentage of Americans living in poverty represents a high last seen in 1965. Meanwhile, corporations, and the people therein, are raking in record profits. According to the (right-leaning) USA Today, that is expected to continue:
While growth expectations may be subsiding, investors are still expecting record profits. Even if profit next year increases by 8.7%, that’s still going to represent extremely strong, and record, corporate profits.
Keep in mind the median household income, adjusted for inflation, dipped below $50,000 in 2010 ($49,445). The rising tide is not lifting all boats.
The one point my family all seem to agree on was that the OWS protests give voice to the reality that most of the “99%” feel great frustration at “the system” being controlled by corporate interests. Having an obscene amount of money to spend on influencing elected officials allows a small number of people to make government work for their benefit. The rest of us are at the mercy of those who can buy influence with a small army of lobbyists.
This results in some pretty ridiculous government policies. Republican Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn, published a report called Subsidies of the Rich and Famous.
“From tax write-offs for gambling losses, vacation homes, and luxury yachts to subsidies for their ranches and estates, the government is subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous.”
Grover Norquist responded to Coburn’s report by accusing Coburn of “trying to get on President Obama’s losing class-warfare argument.”
Fox News has walked a fine line between “class warfare” and “populist outrage.”
This “class warfare” idea is the black arrow in the Republican quiver, convincing people to support policies that run counter to their economic self-interest.
Fox enthusiastically criticizes liberal celebrities for receiving subsidies for raising honeybees or “hobby farming.” (A recent Newsweek article named Bon Jovi and Scottie Pippen among a list of celebrity millionaires who availed themselves of federal dollars to subsidize their side hobbies. Billionaires David Rockefeller and Ted Turner have accepted over $500,000 in farm subsidies).
But they conveniently ignore the wealthy Conservatives who also belong on that list, including Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann. Fox News employee Sarah Palin accepted $1.2 million in government subsidies to film her reality show. Palin actually benefitted from a government program that she signed into law in 2008 when she was governor.
But the main point here, whether you identify with OWS or the Tea Party, people are angry at the unfairness of it all.
The Oil and Gas Industry Illustrates the Point
Taxpayers for Common Sense published a report on the billions of subsidies given to the oil and gas industries. Since the start of the 2002 election cycle, the oil and gas industry has donated $138.7 million to the campaigns of elected officials in Washington. Keep in mind that, as of October 2011, the five biggest oil companies made $101 billion in profits.
CEO of Chevron J.S. Watson made over $16.2 million in 2010. According to the AFL-CIO the median income for a worker at Chevron was $33,000, which means the CEO made 480 times the median income. I wonder whether Mr. J.S. Watson could forgo his government subsidy and survive a little belt tightening.
Mr. Watson might look down the road with envy at Exxon CEO R. W. Tillerson, who received almost $29 million in total compensation in 2010. Again, the median income for an Exxon worker was $33,840. Mr. Tillerson made 855 times the median worker’s pay.
Now, I am all for CEOs being rich. The CEO should make a lot more money than the workers. But why does the government need to subsidize these guys? Do we really need to layoff teachers, firemen and cops so we can continue to subsidize the millions of J.S. Watson and R.W. Tillerson?
It is enough to make you want to grab your sleeping bag and occupy someplace. Or at least to give the candidacy of Buddy Roemer a real look.
Six Republican senators are up for recall in Wisconsin. At risk of sounding dramatic, this is a referendum on the real question currently facing America. Will we be a country “for the people” or a country “for the corporate interests.”
On one hand things are dire. We have no jobs. We have no money. We all need to do more with less. Tighten our belts. Sacrifice.
Yet record breaking amounts of money have poured into Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimated that $31 million has been spent on this recall election. That is almost 10 times the amount spent on all the original races.
All six of the recall elections being held today have broken the previous Wisconsin record for spending on a single campaign. And this big money is flowing into Wisconsin on both sides.
Things obviously aren’t “dire” for everyone. Some people have a lot of money. Not everyone is experiencing hard times. Though after yesterdays market plunge I wonder if some of the 1% are thinking they would have been better off paying a little more in taxes, as that might have hurt less than watching their wealth evaporate. At least their tax dollars might have gone to fund a school or ensured health benefits for a veteran.
But the most significant money flowing into Wisconsin is the “dark money.” Thanks to the corporate friendly Citizens United ruling, where the Roberts court held that for-profit corporations are entitled to the same First Amendment protections as people, we no longer know were the money trail originates. Maybe the middle class needs our own Lester Freemon.
Here is what we do know. Right-wing groups have poured millions of dollars into Wisconsin to protect their corporate interests. I would like to highlight two of many.
The Faith Family Freedom Fund, a PAC controlled by James Dobson’s Family Research Council, has poured money into radio ads in support of the pro-corporate Republican candidates.
Dobson is one of the original Moral Majority “hijackers of Christianity” who sought to combine pro-corporate politics and religion, using the “culture wars” to motivate middle and lower class conservatives to vote against their economic self-interest. In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center actually designated the Family Research Council as a hate group for their attacks on homosexual Americans.
In the current political climate Christianity seems more aligned with repealing health care reform and opposing tax increases on the wealthy than the actual teachings of Jesus.
Americans for Prosperity, the front group for the billionaire Koch brothers and their unapologetic corporate interest, has given over $240,000 for TV ads and paid to have absentee ballots sent to the Wisconsin voters in Democratic districts telling them to return the ballots to the wrong address, two days after the election date.
If that seems underhanded to you that is because it is. Stephen Colbert shared his take on this display of corporate democracy a few nights ago. Watch it here.
Is this what the men and women of the armed forces are fighting for. Is this why those 22 members of SEAL Team 6 got on the Chinnock to fly into a valley no one has ever heard of? Or why Army Rangers were already there. Is that way about 150,000 American men and women have been engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan for the better part of the past decade?
Can this really be where we are now? If it is, I imagine it is only do long before the White House is renamed for its new corporate sponsor and the flags on the uniforms of our armed forces are replaced with a Wal Mart logo.