Andrew Yang Defends $1000 a Month Giveaway: ‘This Is Perfectly Legal’

September 16, 2019 Updated: September 17, 2019

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has defended his giveaway contest in which 10 families picked at random would be given $1,000 a month for a year—paid by his campaign—saying that he was “sure that this is perfectly legal.”

“We have an army of lawyers who have signed off on it. And we’re sure that this is perfectly legal,” Yang told CNN’s State of the Union on Sept. 15. “But I do want to reflect for a moment, … on the fact that if I gave a million dollars to media company or consultants or hired like a small army of canvassers no one would blink an eye, but if we give the money directly to the American people somehow that’s problematic.

“So, it just speaks to how messed up our system is, where giving money directly to Americans actually raises eyebrows.”

Yang announced the $120,000 giveaway contest during the third Democratic presidential debate on Sept. 12. As of the time of writing, the contest has received more than 450,000 entries, Yang’s campaign told Politico.

Following Yang’s announcement, former Federal Election Commission general counsel Larry Noble questioned the contest’s legality.

“A lottery to give money to potential supporters may violate law and is a slippery slope, but I suspect he could argue it’s a novel way to boost his fundraising. That doesn’t sound as uplifting as a pilot program for his ‘Freedom Dividend’ but that’s what it looks like,” Noble wrote in a tweet on Sept. 12.

“@AndrewYang doesn’t want to say it, his best argument for legality of giving cash to random entrants on [his] website is that it’s part of [a] soft campaign solicitation and way to expand [the] campaign’s email list.”

The contest is widely viewed as a pilot for Yang’s universal basic income plan, the centerpiece of his campaign. His plan, also known as the “Freedom Dividend,” would provide every American adult over the age of 18 an income of $1,000 a month, or $12,000 a year.

According to his campaign website, the universal basic income plan is meant to counter the threat of automation in different industries, which it says would displace a large number of workers.

His campaign also told Politico that it had raised $1 million in 72 hours since the debate.

Yang, who is new to politics, has moved his way up to the middle of the Democratic field of candidates, polling at an average of 3 percent, according to Real Clear Politics as of Sept. 17. Former vice president Joe Biden still leads the group polling at an average of 26.2 percent, while Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are trailing behind him at 17.0 percent and 16.8 percent, respectively.

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