If you’re the only candidate who has made the third Democratic debate as a political outsider, why not get a little Willy Wonka with it? During opening statement at the September debate in Houston, businessman Andrew Yang announced a $120,000 giveaway: Ten families would receive $120,000 over the next year as a sort of dry run for his signature universal basic income initiative, in which every citizen over the age of 18 would receive $1,000 per month.
“It’s time to stop trusting politicians and start trusting ourselves — so I’m going to do something unprecedented tonight,” Yang stated. “My campaign is now going to give a Freedom Dividend of $1,000 a month to ten American families for an entire year, someone watching this at home right now.”
But there’s a catch. In order to apply for Thursday night’s UBI giveaway, debate viewers will have to log their email with the Yang campaign. In a sense, it’s just a flashier rendition of the get-flown-out-for-a-beer-with-a-candidate trick, or signing your email up with a retailer to get a few bucks off a shirt. Yang will be able to direct a rush of traffic to his site, boost his name recognition, and blast primary voters’ inboxes in perpetuity. Other candidates polling in the single digits must be jealous.
Or not. Though Yang’s legal team claims they’re good to go regarding FEC regulations, former FEC attorney Erin Chlopak told Time: “Handing out money to individuals for their own personal use would seem to be a violation of campaign-finance law. 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.”