Long-shot Republican presidential candidate Buddy Roemer officially dropped out of the 2012 race on Thursday, blasting the special interests that "own our political system" as he did so.

In a statement, Roemer thanked his friends and family who had supported him during the 17 month campaign. The White House hopeful had been excluded from the 23 nationally-televised GOP debates and failed to make it onto the ballot in all 50 states.

"America is a nation at risk," Roemer said. "Job prospects are inadequate. Trade is neither smart nor fair. The tax code is unreadable and, I say, un-American. The budget is unsustainable. Small business must be re-vitalized. Energy has no strategy. Healthcare is not healthy. Banks are still too big to fail, and comprehensive immigration reform is a fantasy."

"We can turn all these problems into opportunities, but we must begin our battle with the special interests who are content with the status quo," he added. "They don’t want change. They spend billions to keep their control. They own our political system."

Roemer had made campaign finance reform central to his campaign. He vowed to only accept campaign contributions under $100, and refused all corporate and lobbyist money. Roemer had criticized both the parties for being unduly influenced by the campaign contributions of special interest groups.

"Look at the facts," he explained. "Ninety-eight percent of the electorate does not give a penny to presidential or congressional campaigns. The money comes from Wall Street banks, corporate PACs, the labor union coffers, insurance and pharmaceutical companies, Big Oil, military defense contractors, miscellaneous PACs, Super PACs and the lobbyists."

Roemer was the governor of Louisiana from 1988 to 1992 and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1981 to 1988. Roemer was a Democrat until 1991, when he switched the Republican Party. After his time in government, he founded Business First Bank.

In his statement, Roemer pledged to dedicate "a good portion" of his life to campaign finance reform.

[Image via Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons licensed]