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Yesterday I went to a solar-powered, energy efficient home not far from where I live to present Jerry McNerney with the check last weekend's Blue America townhall meeting had voted to give him. Jerry, one of 5 members of Congress selected, has been diligently keeping the promises he made when he ran for Congress in northern California. For some it was enough that he would rid the political scene of the odious and corrupt extremist Dirty Dick Pombo. But not for Congressman McNerney. Getting rid of Pombo was just a baby step in what's he's got in mind. This is a man who is serious about turning around U.S. foreign policy and making it a force for good. This is a man whose passion is making renewable energy the basis of a thriving economy is a sustainable environment. He's got a big job cut out for himself. And getting re-elected is a necessary part of it. Next weekend Jerry will be a return guest at Firedoglake to tell us how his first 3 months in D.C. have been going. I hope we can give his campaign kitty a boost too.

One of the people I met at the event yesterday was Zack Webber, a blog lurker and Democratic activist. He's also a tax accountant and he gave me a great idea. You may not know it, but the U.S. government owes you some loot– a kind of peace dividend… from the Spanish-American War. Zack has written up a couple of paragraphs explaining it:

You might ask, "What is Zack talking about? Has he gone crazy from doing too many tax returns?" I may be a bit daft but it is true, and it shows up on your tax return.

Way back in 1898 when the U.S. went to war there was a federal excise tax placed on long distance telephone calls, which were a luxury as only the wealthy had phones back then. After that war ended, the phone tax was still being collected until last year, when a court ruled that the Federal Government could no longer collect the tax and would have to refund it to taxpayers.

The refund period is from March 2003 through July 2006. You can claim either the actual tax paid (if you have your old phone bills) or take a standard "safe harbor" amount from $30 to $60 depending on the number of people on the return. There is a line on the tax forms to claim the credit and another form for taking the actual tax paid, though almost all taxpayers are claiming the standard amount. There is also a Form 1040 EZ-T to get the credit for people who otherwise would not need to file a return.

At least the government tried to pay for the war in 1898 which is so unlike the current administration which prefers to cut taxes on the rich and add to the national debt rather than pay the costs of our wars.

So… may I make a proposal? Get your refund that you probably had no idea was coming to you– and consider donating half of it to re-elect Jerry McNerney to Congress where he will continue fighting our battles for us. And don't forget– next Saturday: Firedoglake, 1PM (PT)– come meet Jerry and ask him whatever you'd like about being in Congress. You can donate to Jerry's campaign now, Saturday or any time afterwards. As we learned last year when we raised over $500,000 for progressive candidates like Jerry, even donations of $5 and $10 mount up. Together we are strong enough to beat back the right wing money machine. We took back Congress in November; let's keep it and expand our majority.