NEW ORLEANS - Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, a longshot candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, said at the Republican Leadership Conference Saturday that America is in the grips of "institutional corruption" due to the corrosive presence of special interest money in politics.
"I've never seen anything like the tyranny that walks our land, the tyranny of the special interests that walks America today," said Roemer, who is also a former congressman. He told a relatively subdued crowd of conservative activists that he has "seen the rigged money game grow and grow and grow."
"Political giving has mushroomed into a casino for favors for the special interests who live off government," said Roemer, who said more money was given in the last presidential cycle by people in the Washington, D.C., area than in 32 states combined.
"One percent of the people give the money, and they want a favor, an access, a help, a relief," he added.
Roemer took aim at politicians from both parties for their ties to special interest money, hitting President Obama for a refusal to lead on the issue "because he's busy running to Wall Street for a fundraiser for $35,000 bucks per ticket."
Members of Congress, he said, are too busy fundraising to do the work of governing.
"They don't read the bills," he said. "They don't have time to. They're working out lobbying jobs."
Roemernot to take more than $100 from any one donor in order to avoid being elected by special interests.
The tax code is "written by the lobbyists," said Roemer, who advocates a modified version of the so-called "FairTax" flat sales tax. Calling the tax code "deliberately unreadable," Roemer said, "it's a disgrace."
Roemer's speech included a call to reduce spending by one percent of Gross Domestic Product each year, and eliminate the Department of Energy and Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. He complained about the impact of excessive regulations on small businesses - calling for all recent regulations to be reversed - and said America has gone from "a nation of makers" to "a nation of takers" from the government.
Roemer also said if he is president U.S. military personnel will no longer "serve on oil duty" abroad.
Roemer seemed to win over the crowd through his long speech, which included a failed attempt by conference organizers to get him to leave the stage by playing music.
"America's in trouble," said Roemer, his voice nearly quaking. "And we can do better, folks."