Presidential candidate Andrew Yang plans to give more Americans $1,000 a month as he broadens a test of his signature campaign proposal.
The entrepreneur will give 10 more randomly selected families the monthly sum, his announced during Thursday's Democratic primary debate. Yang has already started to give out $1,000 a month payments to several recipients out of his own pocket.
As he announced the move on the debate stage Thursday, Yang called it "unprecedented." He urged Americans who "believe that you can solve your own problems better than any politician" to enter the online raffle for the $1,000 monthly sum.
Yang's announcement was met with cheers from the debate crowd – and laughter and disbelief among his rivals on stage.
"It's original, I'll give you that," South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg quipped.
A proponent of so-called universal basic income, Yang wants to give all Americans $1,000 a month. He calls it a "freedom dividend" designed to counter the rising threat of automation to jobs.
He plans to use campaign funds to pay out the $120,000 total. Americans can enter an online raffle to potentially win the payment.
The campaign said it "consulted with [its] counsel, and the Freedom Dividends are fully compliant with all [Federal Election Commission] regulations." But one campaign finance expert said the plan could raise legal issues.
"If the payments are made from the campaign, this will certainly raise questions as to whether they are permitted under the law, but at present how the law should be applied to these payments is a gray area for which there are no direct precedents," said Anthony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College in Maine. He said it would raise a question of whether the payments are a personal use of campaign money.
He also noted that the FEC currently only has three commissioners, and the agency needs four to interpret a law or bring an enforcement action.
Following Yang's announcement, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian tweeted that he would personally cover the $1,000 monthly payments if Yang's campaign cannot.
Yang, who started Venture for America, which helps to land startup jobs for recent graduates, entered the presidential race as a relative unknown in a crowded field of elected officials. However, he has firmly planted himself in the top half of the 20-person Democratic pack, in part due to a strong online following and a message focused on planning for job automation.
Yang currently sits sixth in the national RealClearPolitics primary polling average.