Not so fast, Andrew.
Businessman Andrew Yang’s proposal to give 10 families a thousand bucks a montheach for a year made a splash Friday — with campaign finance lawyers.
“He’s using campaign money and the problem is federal law prohibits campaign money from being converted to the personal use of any person,” said Adav Noti, a top lawyer at campaign finance watchdog Campaign Legal Center, who once worked for the Federal Election Commission.
“It sure looks like giving people $1,000 cash in exchange for nothing is converting campaign funds into the personal use for those people and that is not lawful.”
Yang announced the giveaway at the Democratic debate in Houston on Thursday night and rejected concerns about its legality.
“We have an army of lawyers who signed off and said it’s perfectly legal,” Yang said after the three-hour-long forum.
“But I want everyone to reflect for a moment that we’re at a point in time where a billionaire can spend $10 million-plus buying his way onto the debate stage and everyone thinks that’s A-OK,” he added, referencing billionaire hedge fund magnate Tom Steyer’s big-dollar ad buys after jumping into the Democratic primary. “But then us literally giving money away to Americans to improve their lives, do whatever they want, somehow that’s problematic?”
For months, the tech entrepreneur gave families in Iowa and New Hampshire a thousand bucks a month out of his own pocket to try to prove the value of his proposal to give every American household a $1,000 in guaranteed income, which he calls a “freedom dividend.”
That’s kosher, experts told The Post. The problems begin when he starts using campaign funds to pay for a giveaway.
“Yang’s proposed Freedom Dividend giveaway of campaign cash would violate the personal use prohibition of federal campaign finance law,” said Craig Holman, an expert at the watchdog group Public Citizen. “This expense has no campaign purpose and the fact that Yang is already making a similar expenditure out of his own pocket shows that it is irrespective of his campaign.”
However, it’s unclear what — if anything — could happen to Yang.
The FEC has been crippled by Washington, D.C. dysfunction and does not even have enough members to rule on allegations of wrongdoing or issue any punishment.