By ERIN THOMPSON

Illustration: Dave Baker
Illustration: Dave Baker

If you read the news or watch TV news, you might think there are only two candidates running for president in November: Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican candidate John McCain. There are actually many other candidates from different parties, called third parties, running for president, too. But in the U.S. election system it is nearly impossible for anyone who is not a Democrat or Republican to win.

You need money to win the election because you have to buy TV ads and pay organizers to campaign across the country. Barack Obama and John McCain are expected to raise as much as $500 million each to win the presidency. Obama alone has raised almost $390 million so far, while Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney has only raised $170,591, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. How do the Democrats and Republicans raise so much more money than other candidates?

The money they raise mostly comes from people with ties to big businesses that hope to win favors from the new president. These businesses are happy with the two major parties.

Each person is allowed to contribute a maximum amount of $4,600 per election to a candidate. Many of the contributions come from individuals working in specific industries and for certain large corporations. The company where the person works bundles the contributions as one lump sum to the candidates (see chart at the bottom).

IndyKids readers don’t have lots of money to influence candidates. But take a look at some of the candidates’ positions on the issues in our centerspread inside, and think about who best represents your views. Hold a class vote and see who wins. And on page 7 read about other ways besides elections that kids and ordinary people can make a difference.

Who’s Donating

OBAMA
Goldman Sachs: $653,030
JPMorgan Chase & Co.: $414,760
Citigroup Inc.: $408,299
Google Inc.: $404,191
Microsoft Corp.: $326,847
Morgan Stanley: $307,221
Time Warner: $305,538

McCAI N
Merrill Lynch: $296,913
Citigroup Inc.: $268,501
Morgan Stanley: $234,272
Goldman Sachs: $208,395
JPMorgan Chase & Co.: $179,975
AT&T Inc.: $174,497
Bank of America: $129,475