The Republican candidate turned Americans Elect hopeful Buddy Roemer officially suspended his quixotic campaign for President this morning. The former Louisiana governor was one of the first Republicans to launch an exploratory committee in 2011. One of a handful of Republican candidates that staked their hopes on New Hampshire, Roemer got less than 1000 votes there. At the end of the day, Buddy Roemer’s campaign never got off the ground for the same reason it got more traction than, say Fred Karger’s. Buddy Roemer was going to run a campaign without accepting donations over $100, because of campaign finance corruption, a gimmick that got him press, if not cash.
Personal contributions to candidates are limited to $2,500 anyway, so it’s hard to see just how much more influence a $2,500 donation is supposed to have than a $100 one when presidential candidates need to collect millions to win. The infatuation with the “corrupting” influence of money in politics is bizarre anyway, especially coming from a former banker like Roemer.
Politicians don’t need money to corrupt them, they can do that fine all by themselves; members of Congress can spend their entire careers enriching themselves on the taxpayer dime and not run afoul of a single law. No corporation forced former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson to hide cash in a freezer and no corporation held a gun to any member of Congress that used their ever broadening powers to legislate and regulate commercial affairs to personally enrich themselves.
For all the talk of getting money out of politics, corporations often seem to be the diversionary scapegoat while the politicians try to get at the money. The idea that free of the influence of money politicians will suddenly lose their appetite for power, control and self-aggrandizement is delusional. It has no basis in human history, in psychology or, frankly, in common sense. Money in politics, as I noted after President Obama announced his “evolution” on gay marriage, is a good thing. Politicians are interested in self-preservation, not because corporations made it so, but because it’s in the nature of a politician. The influence of money in politics, be it corporate money, small donors, big donors or advocacy groups, serves to diversify the voices that reach government and provides a necessary check and balance to any politician’s tendency to self-enrichment.
Americans Elect raised some $20 million dollars and gained access to dozen states. But their money couldn’t help them generate an interest that likely just wasn’t there, as Brian Doherty notes. For reference, Buddy Roemer, because he was a former governer, needed 10,000 votes to get the nomination from Americans Elect. He had under 7,000. Roemer does, however, have nearly 30,000 Twitter followers, suggesting that at the end though his self-imposed $100 contribution handicapped him, it was an enthusiasm gap that ended his campaign, not a money gap. Money is no resource to shun on the quest for the White House; there’s no reason money can’t lubricate a free market in politics the way it makes the everyday exchange of goods and services so smooth and efficient, when government’s not getting in the way.