06/15/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Taxing Situation

Many Americans will spend the day putting the finishing touches on their tax returns -- I just hit the send button myself -- but we're not the only ones totaling up money numbers. Candidates for Congress must file their campaign finance reports for the first quarter of the year with the Federal Election Commission by midnight tonight.

And a new report from Citizens Against Government Waste shines some light on how these two events are connected.

According to the report, lawmakers secured $16.5 billion in earmarks in the last fiscal year. So those of you giving money to Uncle Sam today, these are what you're paying for. While many of these fund worthwhile causes and create much needed jobs, we've seen egregious examples of abuse over the years.

So on this day when you're giving your hard earned money to the IRS, you have to wonder how much of that goes to line the pockets of wealthy special interests that lobby in Washington, D.C.

And that's the problem with our current political system. Candidates for Congress spend their days and nights dialing for dollars and attending gala fundraisers with Wall Street executives and insider lobbyists. These donors gain access and influence, while everyday Americans are left out of the process.

This needs to change. We need a political system that puts voters ahead of donors and makes members of Congress accountable solely to their constituents.

It's time for the Fair Elections Now Act, legislation that empowers the grassroots base and gives candidates for Congress the option to end their nonstop quest for campaign cash. With Fair Elections, candidates can run for office on a blend of limited public funds and a four-to-one match on donations of $100 or less. Instead of spending countless hours raising money, candidates can spend their time talking with constituents and addressing our nation's challenges.

Sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Reps. John Larson (D-Conn.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.), the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752, H.R. 1826) has the broad, bipartisan and cross-caucus support of 144 House members and 13 Senators.

Across the country today, Tea Party activists will protest the IRS because they have to pay taxes, but they really should be protesting our broken campaign funding system that too often gives our hard-earned money over to earmarks and loopholes for campaign donors. Join us -- ask your Representative and Senators to co-sponsor the Fair Elections Now Act.