WASHINGTON, July 24 (UPI) -- Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer told a U.S. Senate panel Tuesday lobbyists and super PACs have far too much influence in Washington.
Roemer, who also represented Louisiana in Congress, testified at a hearing of the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, which is looking into proposals to rein in influence peddlers.
"As the only person running for president who was elected both as congressman and as governor, it is my belief that Washington, D.C., is not just broken," Roemer said. "It is bought, rented, leased, and owned by the money givers. Special interests, the bundlers, PACs, super PACs, lobbyists, the Wall Street bankers, the pharmaceuticals, the corporate giants, the insurance companies, organized labor, the GSE's like Fannie and Freddie, energy companies, on and on and on and on.
"And this is not about one party versus the other, or about one person or another. It is about systemic and institutional corruption where the size of your check rather than the strength of your need or idea determine your place in line."
The hearing is the second called by the panel's chairman, Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to examine the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling in the Citizens United case, in which it held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political spending by corporations and unions.
"Since the Supreme Court's decision on Citizens United, we have seen the rapid rise of super PACs and unprecedented influence-buying by wealthy individuals seeking to advance their agendas," Durbin said. "This year, election spending by outside groups will likely shatter previous records, but very little will be known about who's footing the bill. In a democracy that values open debate and participation, voters should know who has paid for the political ads designed to persuade them. Bills like the Fair Elections Now Act and the DISCLOSE Act are a good start. But it's increasingly clear that the only way to really reform our system is to pass a constitutional amendment to regulate how we finance our elections."
Durbin noted in a release that the amount spent by outside groups rose from $70 million in 2006 to $294 million in 2010. Super PACs have raised more than $250 million so far this year, he said.
Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig, an expert on campaign financing, testified the high court's ruling has ignited more "outrage and sustained fury from citizens across the political spectrum" than nearly any other court case.
"[The people] have lost the faith that their government is responsive to them, because they have become convinced that their government is more responsive to those who fund your campaigns," he said.
The subcommittee was given petitions signed by nearly 2 million people who favor a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United, Durbin's release said.