Buddy Roemer. Photo by Gage Skidmore

Last week at the Iowa State Fair, Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney told an  audience that “corporations are people.”  Some in the crowd scoffed at the claim, but that’s a  silly reaction since the proof was standing there on stage, speaking to them.  I mean, what more evidence does Romney have to show these doubting Iowans to convince them that corporations are people, too? Must he seal the deal by pulling Terry McAuliffe on stage to do a “if you prick us do we not bleed” monologue? I just don’t get why the crowd was baffled. Instead of playing confused, their rejoinder should’ve been “Obviously!”

Actually, that’s one of the reasons why I respect presidential candidate Buddy Roemer’s pledge to refuse any contributions over $100. It’s a pretty smart move, to make a virtue of necessity. He wouldn’t have received a lot of money anyway, and now he can claim that he’s not tainted by special interests and big business. I like that he’s not afraid to put his campaign’s money (or lack thereof) where his mouth is. Unfortunately, the gambit hasn’t worked.

The national press looks past Roemer as though he’s invisible. They don’t even do him the honor of pointedly ignoring him, as they do Rep. Ron Paul. They just… don’t see the former Governor of Louisiana, even though he’s a folksy charmer. What gives, media? Candidate Roemer is a person, too!  And he’s not nearly as nutty as some of his better-financed rivals.

I’d hate for Roemer’s $100 cap on contributions to get discredited by his invisible presidential campaign. It’s not such a bad model. In fact, I think it could work for underdog grassroots candidates at the local and state levels, too. Since the incumbents have usually corralled most of the donors with deep pockets, underdog candidates should tout their separation from the moneyed interests. Most important, rather than courting the usual suspects, they will be forced to find more creative ways to run their campaigns. It would be refreshing to hear a candidate renounce big donations and tell audiences that “we’re not going to insult you by campaigning on the basis of  expensive 30 second TV ads. If that sort of popalorum is enough to sway your vote — I don’t want it. Our campaign intends to use our resources wisely, because we plan to spend your tax dollars in the same way. You deserve to hear detailed plans and a specific vision from those who seek to serve you in office, and that’s what I plan to offer you, in person. And if you like what you hear, we’ll gladly accept a few small bills, to cover our travel expenses. But anything over a $100 will be returned. Fair enough?”

Billions of dollars will be spent on political races in 2012, while millions of Americans are unemployed. That’s insane. If courts are determined to rule that campaign contributions are tantamount to “free speech,” then here’s what I recommend: let “free speech” ring! Politicians who accept the big bucks should have to wear the names of their top donors on their sleeves — literally!

I’m serious. Any candidate who takes contributions over $100 should have to wear clothing with the names of their top political donors stitched into the fabric. Picture the debates: a candidate like Roemer is up there in a regular suit, and everyone else looks like a stock car — covered in names and logos. That way, audiences will be able to see exactly who’s in the driver’s seat.

Mark Moseley

Mark Moseley blogs at Your Right Hand Thief. Until mid 2014, Mark Moseley was The Lens' opinion writer, engagement specialist and coordinator for the Charter Schools Reporting Corps. After Katrina and...