By Lauren Rearick
Andrew Yang apparently has $120,000 to giveaway, and he wants you to be one of ten people to win it.
In his quest to secure the nomination as the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, Yang used his opening statements at Thursday evening’s Democratic Primary debate to announce a contest. As explained on his website, he wants to select 10 random families to receive $1,000 a month for a year.
“It’s original, I’ll give you that,” Pete Buttigieg said in response.
All that’s ostensibly required to enter the contest is your first and last name, along with an email and zip code — an admittedly clever way to add people to your email list. Immediately after users input their information, the site takes you to a form asking you to donate to the Yang 2020 campaign. MTV News did not go beyond this step in the fact-checking process. It’s not clear where users would “give us your story,” as the candidate said on the debate stage in Houston.
The contest is intended to help promote his presidential plan for a Universal Basic Income, Politico explained. Under Yang’s proposed “Freedom Dividend” plan, every person in America over the age of 18 would receive a $1,000 monthly stipend. The money would be provided to a person regardless of their income, and Yang explained that he intends to fund the dividend through consolidation of welfare programs and an increased Value Added Tax, which is a tax placed on goods produced by a business.
Complete contest rules weren’t revealed during the debate, but TIME pointed out a potential legal problem with the proposed giveaway. “Handing out money to individuals for their own personal use would seem to be a violation of campaign-finance law,” Erin Chlopak, director of campaign finance strategy at the Campaign Legal Center and a former FEC attorney, told TIME. “It’s hard for me to envision how taking campaign funds and just handing it out to individuals would not violate the personal use prohibition.”
Madalin Sammons, Yang’s press secretary, disputed the potential legal ramifications. “The campaign would not be making [Universal Basic Income] payments irrespective of Andrew’s candidacy, and therefore it is a legitimate campaign expenditure,” she told TIME. “No one that we plan on giving this Freedom Dividend [to] will be asked to vote in any particular way. At the end of the day, people have their own free will.”
Based on a CNN poll conducted the week of September 5, Yang is polling at a two percent approval rating among potential voters. Almost all of his many plans on his website cite his Freedom Dividend plan as a solve for issues as far-ranging as student loan debt and standardizing the health insurance industry. But people are starkly divided on whether or not a UBI would have a net positive effect on the American economy, in part because there is little proof it has worked in the past.