By Paul Briand
Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer has two main themes as he campaigns for president -- corruption is No. 1 and fair trade with China as a means of recreating American jobs is No. 2.
But he's also campaigning on a third point: To be heard, to be enough of a polling candidate -- about 5 percent -- in the Republican primary race to get an invitation to the nationally televised debates.
Those subjects and more were on the table Thursday afternoon as Roemer talked to about 30 people at a forum hosted by Seacoast Media Group at its New Hampshire Avenue facility.
His campaign against corruption covers a broad swath that includes political action committees (PACs), so-called Super PACs, lobbyists, and a Congress that he believes has become little more than a waiting area for future lobbyists.
"Corruption," he said, "it touches everything. It is the key to unlocking our future."
He told of political contributions that influence and hamstring everything from health care to pharmaceuticals to a tax code he says is unreadable.
"We can do the things we need to do but I think we have to start with corruption," he said. "They won't get done by the other candidates because you can't take the special interest money and stand up to them. It's possible, but I've never seen in happen.
"You know who the man works for? Whoever signs his check. You know who the politicians work for? Whoever gives them the money."
He noted in particular what he says is the irony of Super PACs in that they aren't as independent of candidates as the Supreme Court's Citizens United case of 2010 might make voters believe.
"Mitt Romney's Super PACs are run by his business partner, his former chief of staff and his former campaign manager," Roemer said. "Jon Huntsman's Super PAC is fully funded by his father; now that's real independence.
"Rick Perry has seven Super PACs -- seven! And every one is run by a cousin, a neighbor, a friend, or a former employee. It is a lie. It is illegal. It is a joke. And no one's laughing."
He spoke at length about trade imbalances, how in the last 20 years a trade deficit equal to Canada's economy has shifted overseas. At the heart of the imbalance, he said, is China, which he said he's visited and where he says he's seen working conditions that would never be allowed in the United States.
"People always talk about how in bad shape we're in. Well, we're still the biggest market on Earth," Roemer said. "We're 25 percent of the Earth's economy. And we're 7½ percent of China's economy. That's how much they need us. They can't do it without us.
"People that talk about building jobs and don't talk about unfair trade with China, which is a big hole in our jobs budget, are lying, are ignorant. Some like Jon Huntsman are apologetic for China. Shame on him."
In his remarks, Roemer spoke to independent voters who, in the open primary in the Granite State, can take a Republican ballot on Jan. 10.
"It's going to take more than Republicans to do it. It's going to take independent-minded New Hampshire-ites," he said. "It's going to take independent-minded Louisianans. It's going to take Americans to reach across party lines and stand for core values."
While he's given thought to a third-party candidacy, he said "there's a spark here" that might get him to poll above 5 percent and therefore warrant an invitation to a GOP candidates' debate.
"My hesitancy is the failure of third parties in the country's history," he said. "I run because these are important issues, and I feel like I have a good chance to win. The Republican nomination is wide open, and whoever's on top at the moment, I look at them and see flaws bigger than the White House.
"But if I'm going to be shut out of every debate, if I'm not going to be given a chance by my own party, I've got to rethink how I'm going to become president. I would remain a Republican, but on the American Elect ticket I would join with an independent or a Democrat and have a unity ticket run in all 50 states and (be) included in the national debates."
He even mentioned a possible running mate in that regard: Erksine Bowles, the former Democratic senator from North Carolina who served as co-chair of the presidential deficit-reduction committee in 2010.
"I haven't made a final decision," he said. "There's still a few weeks left in New Hampshire, there are two debates coming up -- nationally televised but out of New Hampshire. We're doing everything we can. I think it's a 5 percent threshold to get in them; I don't think they can keep me out if we make it."
He explained he was a Democrat as governor and as a two-term congressman from Louisiana for 20 years before becoming a Republican because the GOP was more aligned with his economic principles as they related to a balanced budget and banking policies.
He said he would re-institute a form of the gold standard, which President Richard Nixon ended in 1971, as a way of keeping checks and balances on the world economy. He also said he also opposes the Dodds-Frank banking reform law as being "too little, too late."
In response to a question from former Portsmouth state Rep. Jim Splaine, he said he's personally opposed to gay marriage, but supports a state's right to decide whether or not gay marriage is legal. He said as president, gay marriage wouldn't be any of his business.
On the Super PACs, he said he anticipates a challenge as to their legality.