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Capitol Report: Why it’s legal, if unusual, for presidential candidate Andrew Yang to give out $1,000 a month to one lucky Iowan

As Democratic presidential hopefuls try to stand out in a crowded field, Andrew Yang is literally handing out money. Read More...

As Democratic presidential hopefuls try to stand out in a crowded field, Andrew Yang is literally handing out money.

The entrepreneur-turned-politician is centering his 2020 campaign on promising a guaranteed income, and he’s hoping to get attention by giving $1,000 a month to one Iowan starting this year.

Yang said he will personally fund the $1,000-a-month payment for 12 months, and his campaign website is accepting nominations. He already has been giving $1,000 a month to a family in New Hampshire, another state with a key role in the White House race, and he reportedly expects to pick recipients in South Carolina and Nevada, too.

“We are looking for someone that would be a good illustration of many families facing issues here in Iowa,” Yang told the Des Moines Register. “Also, someone who’s willing to share their story.”

The recipient in Iowa must agree to media appearances to show the impact of the money. Yang has campaigned on the idea that all Americans should receive $1,000 a month, calling it a “Freedom Dividend.” His plan is an example of universal basic income, a concept that has been championed by other entrepreneurs such as Facebook’s FB, -0.71%  Mark Zuckerberg.

It’s unlawful for candidates to give out money if it’s a bribe to get people to vote for them, but Yang doesn’t seem to be doing that, said Erin Chlopak, a former Federal Election Commission attorney who is now the Campaign Legal Center’s director of campaign finance strategy.

“He’s trying to make a point about policy,” Chlopak told MarketWatch. It’s odd but not illegal to give random personal gifts, as long as it’s not for an improper purpose, she added.

The RealClearPolitics average of polls puts Yang near the back of the Democratic pack with support of 1.4%. He’s tied with Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar but well behind former Vice President Joe Biden’s 32.8%.

Related: These are all of the Democrats who are running for president

Yang has qualified for the Democratic Party’s first presidential primary debates by getting contributions from more than 65,000 donors. His team reported a first-quarter fundraising haul of $1.7 million from about 80,000 individual donors.

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