By Richard Cummings
Speaker of the House John Boehner is selling out America to help out a major contributor and Presidential candidate Charles “Buddy” Roemer is steamed up about it. Roemer, 68, criticizes Boehner’s attack on the Senate bill calling China “dangerous” (“Dangerous for whom?” he asks) and points out that Boehner’s leading contributor ($50,000 last year alone) is a hedge fund billionaire, John Paulson, who has obtained a Securities and Futures Commission license for his fund, which has offices in Hong Kong, to allow it to do business in China, along with George Soros and others of that caliber. The Chinese hedge fund business is expected to be worth $ 65 billion in a few years. After taking a sizeable loss ($800 million) on his investment in a Chinese timber company (the Sino-Forest Corporation,) because he failed to research the stock, he has hired a Chinese expert on China’s markets. Paulson is, in fact, desperate. After making other bad bets such as City Corp and Bank of America, his fund has been reeling and he is counting on his Chinese investments to reverse his fortunes. With one of Paulson’s largest funds down nearly 50 percent for the year and several others also posting big losses, the big question is whether the manager’s large and wealthy fan base will scurry for the exits and seek to redeem billions of dollars by year’s end. Paulson will likely not be able to count on a big rush of new money coming into his firm through banks’ wealth management platforms, which have been active sellers of his Advantage funds in the past. Because of this, the only way he can possible get a new influx of money is with Chinese investors
It is not in Paulson’s interests to antagonize China, so Boehner, Roemer argues, does his bidding to the detriment of the American people he is supposed to represent and who keep losing jobs because of China’s unfair trade practices. “It is the system that makes this possible, “Roemer insists,
His anger is palpable as he explains why nothing has been done to address China’s unfair trade policies that cost America millions of jobs.
“Obama won’t do it, no one will do it, because that would hurt the big corporate contributors whose money runs the system.”
Roemer describes that system as totally “corrupt’ and “decadent.”
Buddy Roemer might well be called the “stealth candidate” since so few people outside New Hampshire know he is seeking the Republican nomination for president. A staunch conservative, he started out as a conservative Southern Democrat and became a conservative Republican. After his career in politics ended in the early 1990s, he started a successful community bank. A former governor of Louisiana who also served four terms in the House of Representatives, he has so far not been permitted to appear in any of the debates, notwithstanding his qualifications and the incipient if modest rise in his poll numbers in New Hampshire. When asked if this is because of his position against the power of money in American politics, his response is, “I sincerely hope not.” But the simple truth is that if Roemer could manage to prevail, it would cost the networks that host the debates fortunes in political advertising.
So who exactly is Buddy Roemer and why is he doing what he is doing? It is his thesis that it is not possible to seriously address the monumental problems facing America– unemployment, the debt and the deficit, the trade deficit with China, just to name a few,– as long as vast amounts of corporate money dominate the decision-making process at all levels in American political life. It is that corporate money, he maintains, which upholds a monolithic point of view that goes unchallenged in what passes for mainstream discourse. His two main issues are how that money has corrupted American politics and the loss of American jobs because of unfair trade practices, particularly by China. And the two are related.
To illustrate his point, Roemer (who introduces himself as “Buddy” in his ingratiating Louisiana accent) points out that “none of the questioners in any of the debates so far have asked any of the candidates what the source of their money is and whether or not they have rules on accepting campaign contributions.” They don’t ask, he insists, because it is a given that a candidate must raise as much money as he can from wherever he can get it to be viable. The threshold to the debates, is “flexible,” he claims. And “might as well be the amount of money you can raise.” He is outraged that the last debate included Gary Johnson but not him. “Look at our poll numbers and you figure it out,” he challenges.
He acknowledged that position is regarded as highly controversial in big money Republican circles, because it is out of step with a political culture that assumes that he who pays the piper calls the tune, and that elected officials will serve not the interests of the American people but those special interests of their contributors.
“No one gives the money without expecting something in return,” he explains, “be that an exemption in the tax code or an ambassadorship.”
Roemer reveals that the current ambassadors to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Belgium, and Switzerland all donated between half a million to $800,000 each to the Obama campaign, managing to circumvent the limits on individual contributions through a variety of loopholes.
“Look” he goes on, “I’m not saying that Mitt Romney is corrupt. He’s not. It’s the system that’s corrupt and he plays the game. It’s the same with all of them and the Democrats are worse than the Republicans. Obama ceased to be the president of the United States when he announced two years into his term that he intended to raise a billion dollars for his reelection campaign.”
Roemer rebuts any accusation that this puts him outside the Republican mainstream.
“It is not the traditional Republican position to accept special interest money
One hundred years ago today,” he relates, “Theodore Roosevelt made this challenge to the Republican Party: ‘Are we going to be the party of privilege and Wall Street or do we dare to be the party of plain people who built the nation?’”
He says he is the only true reformer in the race.
“Look, we have had financial reform and we still have too big to fail. It is not American to do it this way. We are not acting the way we should because big corporations, who have never been wealthier, fund the politics. They don’t want change because it will cost them money. They won’t give up things like the foreign tax credit, 162 of the IRS code, which allows for tax deductions for foreign services. They can deduct call services from India from their profits in the United States. And that’s an outrage.”
Roemer would abolish the Super political action committees (PACs) and limit contributions to regular PACs to the same amount an individual can contribute to a candidate. He says he would insist on full disclosure, adding “and I would insist that those PACs state the nature of their true agendas, not this phony ‘Liberty Pac’ or ‘Freedom Pac. And they would have to list their contributors. I am a proud Republican but I am also a proud American, and that comes first. I won’t take the big checks and will accept only contributions of one hundred dollars, which is why I am free and independent.” Paraphrasing Thoreau, he describes the other candidates as just rattling the leaves “while I strike at the root.”
Roemer’s strategy is to rely on volunteers and the Internet. “I want a million campaign managers with whom I will be in contact,” he says. “They will need to involve their friends and family. I need a million contributors to compete. My campaign manager is Carlo Sierra in El Paso, Texas, and this will be a totally different kind of campaign. If this doesn’t work, I don’t have a chance. But my message is what counts. No one else is doing this. I looked at all the other candidates and concluded that if I didn’t do this, no one would. The lobbyists and PACs with Washington, D.C. addresses gave more money eight years ago then from 32 states combined. The money comes from one or two percent of the population. That says something. What kind of country is it that a person with a good idea can’t get heard?”
Roemer made a strong speech in front of the Chinese embassy denouncing China’s trade policies and another at the National Press Club in which he struck at the corruption in the system. There was virtually no coverage of these events. Meanwhile, Bloomberg news reports that Romney has raised 14 million dollars in the last quarter and that Perry is expected to top this. All the Republicans will probably lag behind President Barack Obama, a Democrat. He raised $86 million for the combined total of his campaign and the Democratic National Committee in the second quarter. The campaign and party are targeting a combined goal of $55 million for the third quarter.
In a last push before the midnight deadline for the quarter, Obama spoke at a campaign event at a private residence in Washington. Donors also gathered at a private event in New York hosted by billionaire Warren Buffett, 81, the chairman and chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Then, Obama attended a $35,000 a ticket fundraiser in San Francisco.
The show goes on, however loud the Ragin’ Cajun shouts.
Richard Cummings is a writer whose work has appeared in Playboy, The American Conservative, Evergreen Review, and other publications. He lives in Sag Harbor, New York.