Politics is not a topic to which I normally pay a lot of attention, perhaps because there always seems to be a lot of people talking, but very few of them are actually doing anything productive. Moreover, this is perhaps the first time that I have written something about a political topic. However, many Americans have become more and more concerned about the direction in which our country is heading. I am no different from those people, so therefore, I found myself watching a political talk show recently, where the guest was Buddy Roemer. Who is Buddy Roemer? Well, I had never heard of him either, before this talk show. It happens that he is a former Congressman and Governor from the state of Louisiana, and he is currently a candidate for President of the United States, running to win the nomination of the Republican Party. Based on this one talk show, it seems that Mr. Roemer’s central campaign issue is money in politics, and that captured my attention.
In his discussion, Mr. Roemer put forward a few intriguing points. First, he pointed out how severe the problem of money in politics has become. Members of Congress rely heavily on campaign contributions to pay the enormous costs of their future campaigns. Some estimates have said that a typical person in Congress needs to receive, on average, $113,000 per day in contributions in order to fund their next re-election campaign. This staggering flow of funds is what keeps getting them elected. However, it is also the reason that they find it difficult to vote for or against, literally anything. Regardless of how they vote, they are likely to offend at least a percentage of their contributors, and they can’t afford, in their minds, any loss of funds. Therefore, their safest position is to just vote along party lines, so they can point the finger at someone else if an issue arises. This point certainly seems to make sense to me.
Perhaps the point that Mr. Roemer made that had the biggest impact on me was that he believes that we as a country will not be able to effectively address any of our major issues, such as jobs, national debt, energy, education, or anything else, until we address the fundamental issue of money in politics. That point struck me as being profoundly true. The vast majority of political contributions come from special interest groups, in other words, people who are more concerned about their own best interests than the best interests of the nation as a whole. And, if there is anything my career in business has taught me, it’s that money always comes with strings attached. The old saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch is totally true.
Mr. Roemer went on to suggest two ideas for how the issue of money in politics could be addressed. The first one was to limit the amount of campaign contributions to $2,500. That may be a good idea, but I doubt that it would work. The Supreme Court just last year overturned decades of laws and precedents that attempted to cap campaign contributions at about $5,000. The Supreme Court said that those laws, regardless of how long they had been on the books, were unconstitutional. So, I suppose, implementing this idea would require a constitutional amendment, and that could take years. However, Mr. Roemer’s second suggestion was perhaps more practical. His second idea was to allow special interests to either lobby in DC, or contribute to political campaigns, but not both. As he put it, “you can lobby or you can come with a check, but you can’t do both”. I am not sure if this will solve the problem of money in politics, but it is something that could probably be done, and at least it’s a step in the right direction.
I don’t know anything about Mr. Roemer, outside of that one talk show. However, I believe he has his focus on the right issue.