Fixing Congress: Buddy Roemer’s $100 Plan

Campaign finance reform is back in the news. For the first time since the January 2010 ruling of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court is revisiting campaign finance in its evaluation of the constitutionality of the 1998 Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act, which “provides subsidies to candidates for state offices who agree to take no business, union or political party money and to accept no more than $140 from an individual supporter.”
It’s hard to argue that the amount of money in politics is healthy for our democracy. But, like the swift Citizens United decision, it’s likely that this current Supreme Court case doesn’t attract much prior public discussion. Despite the importance of the issue, campaign finance just isn’t that sexy.
Things might change with the 2012 presidential election. It seems like at least one person is trying to make this an election issue. Last week, former Louisiana governor (and potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate) Buddy Roemer delivered “Fixing Congress: A Republican View,” a follow up to the Democratic perspective given in January by Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper (which I also blogged about) .
Sick of the “endless drive to raise campaign funds,” Roemer is ready to “slay the dragon” (of money in politics) and is volunteering to put a $100 limit on individual contributions, and refuse PAC and special interest money. Unlike some conservative justices in the current Supreme Court case, Buddy Roemer brings forth a system that does not protect limitless political spending as a constitutional right. (That said, Roemer himself contributed $2000 to an individual candidate last fall.)
With conviction, Roemer delivered a solid (if simplistic) stump speech. He criticized Democrats for frolicking with top financial officials. He criticized the tax code for being too complicated. I began to imagine him going around the country soon with his “I will be a president that is free to lead” shtick. “Free to lead” just might have a better chance of sticking to anyone’s mind than “campaign finance reform.” Without concrete policy platforms however, I could not take Roemer completely seriously. He claims that these are to come, but the focus of the campaign (if there is one) would be on campaign finance.
One line in Governor Roemer’s lecture stood out to me. He said, “elections are the time for clearly labeled debate.” I sure hope this is preview of debates to come.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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