ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block.
He's been a congressman, a governor, the head of a bank, and now he wants to be president. Buddy Roemer of Louisiana was running as a Republican. He dropped out of that race and is now seeking the nomination of the Reform Party and of Americans Elect, a new online platform for third-party candidates. Buddy Roemer says he won't take contributions of more than $100 and he won't take PAC money.
He came by our studios today and we began by talking about his main focus - campaign finance and the corrupting power of money in politics.
BUDDY ROEMER: Here's what I think. I think Washington is broken, yes. But more importantly, it's bought. And if we don't take it back, we the people, I think we're in trouble.
BLOCK: When you say that Washington has been bought, you said that you would eliminate, for example, superPACs. You think they're illegal. Look at the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United though...
ROEMER: That's why it's a very legal.
BLOCK: They said that would violate the First Amendment.
BLOCK: How would you go about repealing or making superPACs illegal?
ROEMER: If Congress would read - if they would read this, Citizens United is a well-constructed case. It's a narrow margin. They say that money is a form of speech, who can deny that? Money is important to politics. It can enhance speech if you spend it positively.
BLOCK: But the court said government has no right to regulate that kind of spending in a campaigns.
ROEMER: Oh, no. They said that direct contributions to presidents and congressmen can be regulated, both in terms of disclosure and limits.
BLOCK: Sure, but in terms of superPACs...
ROEMER: But they said superPACs, if they are truly independent. Now, do you think that any of these superPACs are uncoordinated and independent? Of course not; they're in clear violation of the law. Now, I think Mitt Romney went to the fundraiser for his superPAC. Is that coordination? Of course, it is. And the use of Citizens United as an excuse is wrong.
Congress has the power to act now. They can regulate superPACs. They can make PAC contribution equal to individual contributions. They can require 48-hour reporting. They can require full disclosure. They can require that lobbyists either lobby or raise money, you can't do both. Congress can do this right now.
BLOCK: I'd like to have you assess your competition. And I'm going to go through the contenders one by one, and maybe give me a one line response.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
BLOCK: You're holding your nose as I say that.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
ROEMER: Yeah, I'm holding my nose.
BLOCK: But here we go: Mitt Romney.
ROEMER: Know him, like him, honest man - that's important. Mr. One Percent and that's what's wrong with this nation. One percent run America. The 99 percent should.
BLOCK: OK. Number two: Rick Santorum.
ROEMER: Good values, I just don't need to be dictated by government as to what my values are.
BLOCK: Newt Gingrich?
ROEMER: He's the lobbyist for the 1 percent. He and Rick Santorum, both, served in the Congress and they didn't go home. They went into lobbying.
BLOCK: What about Ron Paul?
ROEMER: Good issue on the Federal Reserve, everything else he's off kilter.
BLOCK: And what about President Obama?
ROEMER: Good intentions, gifted in terms of speech; just totally ineffective - no leadership.
BLOCK: Why should voters who are following the campaign looking at you, who has barely registered in the polls so far. You have - according to the recent FEC filing that I was looking at - $43,000 in cash on hand. Why should they think this is a man who is running a viable candidacy and deserves my vote?
ROEMER: Well, if they judge you by your money, they won't. But that's a stupid way to judge something. Is that the way you pick a president? It's not the way I pick a president. I want a woman or a man who has the courage to lead, and is freed to lead, and is not bought by the Wall Street banks or the insurance companies. It's real simple.
Now, can Buddy win? Look at what I've done so far. I've watched candidates come and go like cheap suits. I just need a national stage because I think there are issues that need to be discussed.
BLOCK: What do you say to people who would say to you, Buddy, you're clearly not going to win the race but you could well be a spoiler. You could siphon enough votes from, in your case since you were a Republican for some time now...
ROEMER: Well, who's going to win the race? You don't know. Why can you say that?
ROEMER: This election is months away. You know, is it feasible for you to be president? Can you get elected? I don't know that. But I've been elected. I mean Mitt Romney was elected to one office. He seems to be feasible. Look, I don't think this country has decided who the president is. And I believe that some time, some place in the fall there'll be a national debate and I'll be on the stage, and this election will be settled.
BLOCK: Buddy Roemer, thanks for coming in.
ROEMER: Thanks for having me. I enjoyed it.
BLOCK: That's Buddy Roemer, a former Louisiana congressman and governor, and now an independent candidate for president. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.