Andrew Yang's Freedom Dividend Raffle Is Probably Illegal, Says Former FEC Chair

Anna Harnes

Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang made numerous headlines after the last Democratic debate when he launched a novel way to advertise his "freedom dividend." The businessman-turned-politico announced that he would give $1,000 a month for a year to 10 people who signed up for a raffle through his campaign website.

The only problem, according to Politico, is that the raffle is probably not legal. According to former FEC chair Ann Ravel, the move likely violates campaign finance regulations.

Yang, who has recently surged to 4th place among Democratic candidates (as reported by The Inquisitr), has sought to gain support through his keystone initiative, what he calls the freedom dividend. Under the freedom dividend, every American over 18 would earn the aforementioned $1,000 per month each year, without exception.

The presidential hopeful claims that he believes the move would not just help Americans pay their bills but also serve as an investment into their educations, new businesses, and other ventures.

As the initiative is very popular with many voters, the raffle sought not only to seize on that popularity but also to gain a wealth of new voter information from entrants. However, rivals were soon sounding alarm bells on the move.

According to federal election laws, campaigns cannot use funds for "personal use" by "any person." This ensures that campaign money can only be used for specific campaign activities like travel, security, and consultants.

However, the point of the $1,000 stipend is that Americans could use it for whatever they want -- which means that it likely falls under the "personal use" clause of the law.

Despite these serious questions, the FEC cannot make a move on the matter, as Vice Chair Matthew Petersen resigned in late August. His departure left the commission without the number of officers required to vote on matters involving enforcing regulations, imposing fines, or approving audit reports on campaign finance issues.

For years, the FEC has been slammed as dysfunctional due to deadlocks, often based on political lines. One particularly contentious issue is that of dark money. However, the FEC has never before been so non-functioning on such a scale.

Meanwhile, Yang has hit back at claims that the raffle violates any campaign laws, calling it "perfectly legal."

"That's actually essentially a marketing function on behalf of the campaign," he said in a recent interview.

"And we're simply paying you the thousand dollars just [so] you can tell your story, so you can think of them as a variant of like a marketing consultant or a paid employee."

However, many other campaign veterans do not buy this rationale. One among them is Erin Chlopak, the director of campaign finance strategy at the Campaign Legal Center.

She pointed out that the program could not count as advertising because "recipients are under no obligation to advertise for Yang's candidacy."

Murmurs about the legality of Yang's program have only begun in recent days, so it remains to be seen if the Democratic hopeful will be forced to change aspects of the raffle in the future.