Members of Congress now report spending a third of their time or more raising money for their next campaign, most of it coming from out-of-state interests instead of their own constituents.
Wealthy contributors, in turn, expect – and too often receive – a return on their investment in the form of earmarks and legislative favors.
And while we do not believe that most members of Congress are corrupt, few can deny that the appearance of corruption has dramatically undermined the public's trust in government.
To help bring statesmanship back to Washington, it's time we put an end to the race for campaign cash and the countless compromises it demands.
The best way to fundamentally change the dysfunctional dynamic in Washington is to restore political purchasing power to the American people by incentivizing broad-based small donations from ordinary constituents through matching federal funds.
By providing qualified candidates a way out of the chase for big special- interest money, such a program would make citizens the true stakeholders in our government.
The good news is that a bipartisan proposal to do just that is gaining momentum in Washington. The "Fair Elections Now Act" has gained the support of at least 170 members of Congress. Under such reform, candidates who reach a reasonable threshold of small constituent donations would qualify for federal matching funds to run competitive campaigns, regardless of wealth and connections.
At less than $6 per citizen per year, this approach could save billions in public funds over the long-term as incumbents no longer feel the pressure to approve wasteful spending programs backed by their contributors.
We need not start from scratch. First proposed by President Theodore Roosevelt over a century ago, "Fair Elections" programs are at work in eight states and more than a dozen cities, from Maine to Los Angeles.