By AARON PLATT

If Kanye West, Michelle Johnson, and Mike Gutierrez all ran for president, who would you vote for? I bet most of you would pick Kanye West — you’ve never even heard of the other two people!

Candidates who run for federal offices (the Senate, House of Representatives, and President) know how important it is for their names and faces to be familiar to voters. During every election, candidates spend millions to get their face on TV, in newspapers, and in magazines.

They raise these millions of dollars from individuals, organizations, and corporations. For example, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, for the 2006 elections Wal-Mart gave $869,705 to candidates and political parties. AT&T phone company gave more than $2 million.

Unfortunately, some donors only give money because they want special favors if the candidate wins the election.

How can we make sure our politicians are listening to us — and not just the people who give large campaign donations? One solution is public financing of federal elections. This means that each candidate would receive the same amount of money from the government, but would not be allowed to accept any donations from anyone else. This way, the voters, and not just rich people and companies, would have the biggest influence on how politicians run the country.

• • • • •

For more information, visit commoncause.org, uspirg.org, publiccitizen.org, or just6dollars.org