Speed Reads

2020 Democratic debates

Andrew Yang's big debate surprise might actually be illegal

In the lead-up to Thursday night's Democratic debate, entrepreneur Andrew Yang tantalizingly teased that he was going to do "something no presidential candidate has ever done before in history." What could it possibly be?, people wondered. Was he going to crowd surf? Forgo a suit? Curse (again)?

The correct answer might actually be "violate campaign-finance law." Based on prepared remarks provided to Time, is sounds like Yang actually plans to promote his universal basic income proposal, the Freedom Dividend, by announcing during the debate his intention to give 10 randomly-selected families $1,000 a month for a full year.

But — awkward! — that might actually be illegal. "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 [of the Federal Election Commission]," former FEC attorney Erin Chlopak told Time. Plus, Yang's surprise looks dangerously close to vote buying, others have pointed out.

Yang's team, though, insists they've looked into the legality of the giveaway and that it's totally fine. "Our legal team has walked through all FEC compliance issues and given us the go [ahead]," an aide said.

Hey, free money, who really wants to argue with that? Read more about Yang's big proposal, and the possible complications with it, at Time.