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Bill de Blasio endorses Bernie Sanders in presidential bid

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Bill de Blasio endorses Bernie Sanders in presidential bid

WASHINGTON — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio endorsed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president on Friday.

“I am standing with Bernie because he stands with working families, and always has,” de Blasio said in a statement. “New Yorkers know all too well the damage caused by Donald Trump’s xenophobia, bigotry and recklessness, and Bernie is the candidate to take him on and take him down.”

de Blasio continued, “I have called for a bold, progressive agenda, and that’s exactly what Senator Sanders has championed for decades. I am proud to endorse a true progressive leader who will fight for working New Yorkers and families across the country.”

The endorsement comes after Sanders won the New Hampshire primary, and placed a strong second place in the Iowa caucuses. It also comes as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gains national traction in several polls, and just needs one more qualifying poll to make the debate stage in Nevada. 

Bloomberg and de Blasio have had a fraught relationship since de Blasio ran for mayor. In 2014, when addressing reporters after the death of Eric Garner, de Blasio made reference to Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy, “Because for much of the previous 12 years, there was a growing tension and a growing disconnect between police and community all over our city. And that is not an acceptable state of affairs,” de Blasio said at the time. 

And when Bloomberg entered the presidential race in November, de Blasio said his mayoral tenure has been undoing Bloomberg’s policies. 

“This is a guy who really reinforced the status quo every chance he got in New York City,” de Blasio said in a ‘The Young Turks’ interview. “And I have spent literally six years undoing what Michael Bloomberg did.” 

de Blasio ended his nearly four month presidential bid in September. He is one of a few former presidential contenders in this cycle to endorse in the primary: Former Housing and Urban Development Sec. Julián Castro for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mass. Rep. Seth Moulton and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan for former Vice President Joe Biden, and Joe Sestak for Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Amy Klobuchar launches ad campaign in South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will capitalize on her campaign’s momentum from New Hampshire in South Carolina as she launches her first broadcast television advertisement in the state two weeks before the “First in the South” primary.

The six-figure statewide ad buy, which will also be featured on cable and digital platforms, begins with a moment from the New Hampshire Democratic debate in which Klobuchar sharply criticized President Trump. 

“There is a complete lack of empathy in the guy in the White House right now,” Klobuchar said. “And I will bring that to you.” 

The ad features a montage of Klobuchar interacting with voters and American workers — and highlights her endorsement from The New York Times back in January, shared with Sen. Elizabeth Warren. 

“If you have trouble stretching your paycheck to pay for that rent, I know you and I will fight for you,” Klobuchar continues in the ad. “If you have trouble deciding if you’re going to pay for your child care or your long term care, I know you and I will fight for you. I would love your vote, and I would love the vote of America.”   

The campaign’s new ad buy comes after Klobuchar’s strong performance in the New Hampshire primary, where she placed third behind Sen. Bernie Sanders and former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg. In the roughly 12 hours after the polls closed in the state, Klobuchar raised over $2.5 million from supporters —boosting the campaign’s resources to make targeted outreach efforts in both Nevada and South Carolina. 

The ad buy also comes as Klobuchar continues to trail the other leading contenders in South Carolina, and among voters of color. South Carolina’s primary will take place on Feb. 29.  

Biden puts gun control front and center in new ads

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden will put his career accomplishments on gun safety issues front and center as he kicks off a make-or-break stretch for his candidacy in Nevada, sharpening a contrast with one rival and heading off a similar push from another.

The Biden campaign is launching a pair of new ads on broadcast television in Nevada that amplify Biden’s argument that he is the only Democrat running or president who has taken on the gun lobby and won.

The first ad begins with the names Newtown, Parkland and Las Vegas — communities that saw some of the most horrific mass shootings in the past decade to note that gun violence “is tearing at the soul of this nation.” The ad details Biden’s work on the Brady Bill and assault weapons ban, and vows that Biden “will beat the NRA again” as president.

The second ad features a montage of Biden interacting with children on the campaign trail, saying that while they may not know his record on the issue in detail, “They just need to know protecting them from gun violence is what Joe Biden cares about most.”

The push comes on the second anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Fla. that took 17 lives. The shooting in Parkland followed just months after the murder of 59 concert-goers on the Las Vegas strip by a lone gunman.

In a statement marking the Parkland anniversary, Biden blamed the lack of any meaningful national gun reforms since then on “cowardice — political cowardice from the very people who should be fighting the hardest to protect us but instead are picking the side of gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association.”

The statement is an implicit swipe at Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. At the Democratic debate in New Hampshire, Biden called Sanders’ vote to shield gun manufacturers from liability “the biggest mistake” of his career. Sanders noted in the debate that he now has a D- rating from the NRA, and that “the world has changed and my views have changed” on the issue.

While the issue was not one that moved New Hampshire voters, the Biden campaign sees gun safety reform as a significant one for Nevada voters, who recently supported a ballot initiative to strengthen background checks. In addition to the new seven-figure TV buy, Biden is expected to discuss gun issues in his first public event since Tuesday in Henderson, Nev. Friday night.   

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who helped bankroll a major gun safety push in the 2018 midterms, has also showcased his record on guns in his national advertising blitz. Bloomberg, though, is not competing in the Nevada caucuses.  

Buttigieg is relying on grassroots movement in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With just 18 days until the California primary on Super Tuesday, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is heavily relying on momentum and a “badass grassroots organizing program,” as one aide called it, to build support in the state.

But Buttigieg has yet to spend any dollars on TV ads in the state, while former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have blanketed the airwaves, despite having raised more than $80 million over the last year. Instead, the campaign contends it has fortified a volunteer network throughout each of the state’s congressional districts and is now actively moving more organizing staff into the state to help mobilize those volunteer operations.

He does not have a single endorsement from any one of California’s 45 Democratic members of Congress. Sen. Dianne Feinstein backed former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris has yet to weigh in since her own exit from the presidential race. The state’s Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis announced her endorsement of Buttigieg on Thursday ahead of his Sacramento town hall on Friday. 

Pete Buttigieg speaks at a Get Out the Vote rally at Elm Street Middle School on Feb. 9, 2020 in Nashua, N.H.Win McNamee / Getty Images

Prior to the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, campaign officials dismissed the need to have invested in a robust staff in California or other Super Tuesday states, suggesting, instead, that they would utilize campaign resources on ad buys and rely on the momentum that they’d garner from strong showings in the early states. 

Last September, the Buttigieg campaign secured 2016 Democratic nominee Sec. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 California state director to play the same role for its own Golden State effort. Because California awards its delegates on a proportional basis, the strategic targeting of the millions of Californians will be key, but more difficult, with the vastness of the state — more than 10 media markets and 53 congressional districts.

On Super Tuesday, the state will proportionally award its 416 delegates, with 273 of its delegates determined by results in each congressional district — dividing delegates proportionally among each candidate based on the outcome in that district. The other 144 delegates will be apportioned proportionally based on candidates’ statewide performance. 

California will then send 54 additional delegates — also known as automatic delegates — to the convention. These delegates, mostly party leaders and elected officials, are not required to vote for any one particular candidate, and they will only be able to vote at the convention should the nominating process head to a contested convention and a second ballot vote is required.

In California, voters can register and change party affiliation on Election Day at their polling place, which prompts a potential increase in more moderate and conservative voters to take part in the Democratic primary process. There are more than 9 million registered Democrats in California, and an additional 5.2 million Independent voters. While Buttigieg focused heavily on rural counties in Iowa, he will also likely need to rely on burgeoning support from the more affluent, college-educated voters of California, including from parts of Orange County and San Diego. 

But the Buttigieg campaign hopes that their good showings in Iowa and N.H. will impact the early vote in California — California counties began mailing voters their mail-in ballots on the day of the Iowa contest.

California will also, however, require that he expand his support among voters of color. 

The Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan public policy research center in the state, reported last year that its survey of the state’s electorate showed that about half of likely Democratic voters are white, while Latinos form 24 percent of the party’s electorate, Asian-Americans account for 12 percent and African-American voters make up 10 percent. Buttigieg has suffered to build support outside of his mostly white coalition.

Buttigieg has made few stops in California open to the public — instead heavily fundraising in the state. He has raised more than 20 percent of his money from donors in California, per The Center for Responsive Politics

And it doesn’t seem Buttigieg is changing that plan. With limited time left ahead of March 3, Buttigieg will make two more California private fundraising stops on Friday in the greater Bay Area.

Bloomberg catches up to Warren in congressional endorsements

WASHINGTON — Less than three months since he declared his 2020 candidacy, Michael Bloomberg is tied in major endorsements with Senator Elizabeth Warren, who officially joined the presidential race over a year ago. 

In an NBC News tally of endorsements from members of Congress and governors, both Bloomberg and Warren have a total of 14 endorsements. The two are tied for second place behind Joe Biden with 47 and ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with just eight.

Mike Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 13, 2020.Jonathan Drake / Reuters

Bloomberg, who has yet to participate in a Democratic debate or be on the ballot in Iowa or New Hampshire, has seen a recent surge in endorsements allowing him to tie with the Massachusetts senator.

Warren had a weaker than anticipated performance in the two early states, placing third in the Iowa Caucus and failing to earn any delegates in New Hampshire. 

Since the first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday, Bloomberg has racked up four endorsements, totaling eight this month. Notably, two Congressional Black Caucus members — Democratic Reps. Lucy McBath of Georgia and Gregory Meeks of New York — voiced their support for Bloomberg this week. 

Warren on the other hand, hasn’t received an endorsement from a member of Congress since Rep. Joaquin Castro, TX-20, formally backed her on January 14. Before that, the last time Warren was endorsed was July, 2019. 

Warren’s endorsements stem from her home state and some of the most progressive members of Congress. While she has no gubernatorial endorsements, her fellow Massachusetts Senate Democrat, Ed Markey, supports her candidacy.

Bloomberg has yet to receive the formal backing of any senator but is endorsed by Rhode Island’s Democratic Governor Gina Raimondo. He has also garnered the support of moderate Democratic House members serving in former Trump districts like Rep. Max Rose in New York and Rep. Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey.

Tom Steyer’s wife moves to South Carolina ahead of primary

WASHINGTON — The wife of presidential candidate and entrepreneur, Tom Steyer, moved to South Carolina this weekend to campaign for her husband ahead of the upcoming primary in the state on February 29. 

Kat Taylor resigned from her position as the CEO of a California-based bank and relocated to South Carolina where she’s renting a house for the remainder of Steyer’s 2020 campaign. Taylor will also hit the trail in Super Tuesday states.

Tom Steyer participates in the sixth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season in Los Angeles on Dec. 19, 2019.Frederic J. Brown / AFP – Getty Images file

“I’ve always been in support of my husband, because of that I came to Columbia to show my full support,” Taylor said in a statement to the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Taylor said that when the two took their wedding vows, they “made a commitment to leave everything on the table in a fight for a better world.”

Tiffiany Vaughn Jones, Steyer’s South Carolina Communications Director, told NBC News Wednesday that Taylor wants to take on a more active role in the campaign. The two plan to focus on improving both air and water quality, increasing access to affordable health care and housing, generating jobs, and creating a better future for young voters while on the trail. 

Vaughn Jones said that the 2020 race is clearly “wide open and the primary is now shifting to states that dramatically favor our campaign.”

“Our continued surge in South Carolina and Nevada demonstrates that Tom is the only candidate who is building the diverse coalition that will beat Donald Trump in November,” she said. 

South Carolina is widely considered the first diverse state of the primary cycle and a place where Democrats are competing to win over the black vote. The demographic makes up about two-thirds of the party’s electorate in the state.

Steyer has repeatedly emphasized throughout his time on the trail the importance of the minority vote, stating at Friday’s debate hosted by ABC News that, “We have not said one word tonight about race. Not one word.”

Taylor will also address racial issues while campaigning for her husband. She kicked off her time in South Carolina by hosting college students to discuss Steyer’s plans for increasing funding for historically black colleges and universities Tuesday afternoon.

Up to this point in his candidacy, Steyer surpasses the Democratic field in total spending, coming in second after Michael Bloomberg. In just the last seven months, he has spent $14 million on ads and recruited about 100 new staffers and additional volunteers in South Carolina alone. 

Other candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have argued that the billionaire is buying his way through the race.

Bloomberg gets endorsed by two CBC members

DES MOINES, Iowa — Stacey Plaskett, a Democratic representative to Congress from the U.S. Virgin Islands and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., are endorsing former Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign.  

Plaskett, who had backed Sen. Kamala Harris until the California senator ended her White House bid, says she is backing Bloomberg in order to “bring the fight to Donald Trump.” 

Michael Bloomberg speaks at a campaign event on Feb. 5, 2020, in Providence, R.I.David Goldman / AP file

Plaskett worked with Bloomberg after Superstorm Sandy hit the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2012, and said in a statement that the former New York City mayor “not only has the policies to bring equality and wealth creation to communities of color and economic development to keep us competitive in the world, he’s not afraid to fight.”  

McBath cited Bloomberg’s “unmatched record in gun violence prevention” as a primary reason for her decision.  “Nobody running for president has done more for the gun violence prevention movement than Mike,” she said in a statement. “I am proud to stand with him in this race, and work with him when he is in the White House to keep our communities safe.”

This comes after a new national Quinnipiac poll showed Bloomberg with the support of 22 percent of black Democratic primary voters, eating away at former Vice President Joe Biden’s support among the demographic. Shortly after that poll was released, video and audio clips resurfaced online in which Bloomberg defends his controversial “Stop and Frisk” policy during his time as mayor, clips re-circulated by a supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. A Bloomberg official says the campaign was aware of at least one of the recordings and was braced for them to surface as a major issue at some point in the campaign. 

One of the recordings, verified by NBC News, is audio from a 2015 Aspen Institute appearance, in which Bloomberg said, “you can just Xerox [copy]” the description of male minorities aged 16-25 and hand it to police. He also said, “We put all the cops in the minority neighborhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why do you do it? Because that’s where all the crime is.” 

As the Trump campaign widely circulated the videos as well on Monday, Bloomberg spent the morning meeting with over 20 African American faith leaders in New York City. The leaders released a statement following the meeting, reading, “[Bloomberg] expressed regret over his past insensitivity regarding policies like stop and frisk and showed a continued interest in restorative justice. To be clear: None of us believe that Mike Bloomberg is a racist. Actions speak louder than words, and Mike has a long record of fighting for equality, civil rights, and criminal justice reform.”

Chants of ’46’ raise prospect of Donald Jr. as a dynasty builder

MANCHESTER, N.H. — While introducing the man who hopes to be Donald Trump’s successor in 2024 here Monday night, the president’s eldest son experienced something that had never happened before.

In-between touting his father’s accomplishments and slamming Democratic candidates, Donald Trump Jr. paused briefly to let a chant ricochet around the SNHU Arena: “46! 46! 46!”

It started out, seemingly organically and from just a few sections of the 11,000-person venue before it caught like wildfire. Moments later, Vice President Mike Pence took the stage and received huge applause from the crowd, but none as forward-looking as the acclaim Trump Jr. had just received.

Donald Trump Jr. speaks with his brother Eric and wife Lara, as well as his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle in Des Moines, Iowa on Feb. 3, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP – Getty Images

And it didn’t just happen once. Later in the rally, as the president called members of his family up to the podium to the stage, thanking them for what they’ve “gone through” in recent years,” the audience again broke into the “46!” cheers.

“It was incredible,” Trump Jr. told NBC News outside a polling station in Derry on Tuesday. “I have not heard that one either. I had heard 2024 a couple times, but then it wasn’t like one guy in the front. It went pretty viral. And I’m sitting there like, ‘hey, let’s worry about 2020 first!’” 

Trump Jr. also told Fox News Tuesday that he found the crowd reaction “an incredible honor and very humbling” but maintained his “only focus” is this year’s race.

But while Trump supporters in New Hampshire were eager to cast their ballots for the incumbent on Tuesday, some also admitted they were already thinking about four years from now.

“He’s done a great job being his dad’s right-hand and he would definitely do a good job in his footsteps,” said Alexa Firman, owner of “Simply Delicious” bakery in Bedford, where Trump Jr. and his girlfriend — also a senior adviser to the campaign — Kimberly Guilfoyle stopped by unannounced on primary day. 

The couple also did retail stops in Iowa, in and around the caucuses there last week, and they said they plan to continue the kind of local politicking Trump himself rarely engages in.

The president’s other children are also quite involved in the re-elect effort. Eric and Lara Trump are part of the campaign, and son-in-law Jared Kushner is the main conduit between the White House and 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale. Ivanka Trump has focused more on her administration role but she has vowed to stump for her father as the general election nears and even appeared with Pence at a few stops in the Granite State this week.

The prospects for a potential Trump dynasty got another boost in New Hampshire Tuesday, where early exit polls showed that those voting in the GOP primary there were overwhelmingly supportive of the president and said they had more allegiance to Donald Trump (54 percent) than the Republican Party (34 percent).

Nevada Democratic Party prepares for caucus after Iowa chaos

WASHINGTON — The Nevada Democratic Party released a memo to reporters Tuesday morning detailing the early voting process that will take place ahead of state’s caucuses next Saturday, February 22. 

“From the beginning, NV Dems’ priority has been to execute the most accessible, expansive, and transparent caucus yet,” Alana Mounce, Nevada State Democratic Party Executive Director, states in the memo originally sent to Nevada campaign staff Monday.

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden prepare to caucus for him in the gymnasium at Roosevelt High School, Feb. 3, 2020 in Des Moines, Iowa.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

“That’s why we expanded upon Caucus Day to include four days of in-person early voting, multilingual training and caucus materials, and a robust training program for our nearly 3,000 volunteers,” she continues. 

Early voting will take place from February 15 through February 18 at over 80 locations throughout Nevada. Democrats can vote wherever they’d like in their respective counties as they are not assigned to specific precinct sites. 

If a voter is not a registered Democrat or must update their registration, they are able to do so at their early voting location.

Among the memo’s highlights are bullet points explaining that early voting will be conducted on paper ballots, which will then be transported to a secure location and scanned at the end of each early voting day. Voter check-in will be done on iPads available on-site. 

The votes however, will not be tabulated until Caucus Day. While campaigns will receive early vote data showing who has voted early, official presidential preferences will not go public until precinct caucuses have begun.

It is not yet clear how the Nevada Democratic Party will safely store voting information to avoid any sort of tampering though the memo states that the ballot transportation process to hubs will be tracked. 

“A clear chain of custody outlined on the ballot box —  from the time the ballot box leaves NV Dems HQ to the time it is dropped off at their designated hub — will be documented,” the memo reads. 

Mounce adds that Nevada Democrats have tested and “simplified the voting process” in order to “streamline information and to ensure we minimize errors.”

The announcement comes after the Iowa Democratic Party was controversially forced to delay releasing caucus results due to both technological errors and necessary corrections to the tallies. The Buttigieg and Sanders campaigns have both requested a partial recanvass in some of the Iowa Caucus precincts, arguing that their campaigns undeservedly suffered from discrepancies in the party’s official results. 

Most voters think President Trump will win reelection, new poll finds

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Two-thirds of voters believe that President Trump will be re-elected in November, according to a new Monmouth University poll released Tuesday. Of those, 27 percent said they think Trump will “definitely” be re-elected, while 39 percent said they feel he will “probably” win again.

The poll also finds that just 11 percent of registered Democrats say their party’s eventual nominee will “definitely” beat Trump, while 38 percent said “it is more likely than not” that President Trump will win. 

President Donald Trump arrives at a campaign rally on Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H.Evan Vucci / AP

In the Democratic primary race, the poll shows a new front-runner, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders leading the field at 26 percent support among Democratic and lean-Democratic voters — up from 23 percent in the last national Monmouth University poll, taken before the Iowa caucuses. Former Vice President Joe Biden fell to 16 percent support in this poll — in January he was at 30 percent. 

And former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg saw the biggest bump post-Iowa. In the new poll, Buttigieg rose to 13 percent, tied with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. In the previous Monmouth poll, Buttigieg’s support was at just 6 percent. 

The poll also finds former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg with 11 percent support nationally, making this his third qualifying poll, out of the four he needs, to make the Democratic debate stage in Nevada. Because Bloomberg will likely not receive a delegate from the New Hampshire race, where he is not on the ballot, Bloomberg’s only way to qualify will be through the polling thresholds

Democratic voters also raised concerns about the party’s nominating schedule. Twenty-six percent of Democratic voters said they felt that having Iowa and New Hampshire go first in the contest “makes it less likely” that the party will “nominate the best candidate for president.” And that’s the argument that some candidates, like Biden, are making on the morning of the New Hampshire primary contest. 

Klobuchar declines to set expectations for New Hampshire

EXETER, N.H. — Amy Klobuchar declined to set expectations for Tuesday’s primary here, saying in an interview that it would be for “many others” to decide what constitutes success, adding that she has “kept meeting every single standard” set before her thus far.

The Minnesota senator has ridden a wave of post-debate momentum the last three days: raising more than $3 million and jumping to third in one prominent tracking poll.

Klobuchar has avoided being pinned down on whether a third place finish is her goal, but has pledged to go on to Nevada regardless, where she is scheduled to speak at a League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) conference Thursday.

The candidate acknowledged that her road ahead will be challenging. She has spent far less time in diverse Nevada and South Carolina than she did in Iowa or New Hampshire, and in a Quinnipiac national poll released Monday, she failed to register any support among African American voters. 

“I have had significant African American support in all my races that I have run, and that is in Minnesota. A number of the leaders from my state have been out campaigning for me including the mayor of St. Paul — went out to L.A., went out to Iowa for me. And so that’ll be part of my strategy,” Klobuchar told NBC News. “And the other piece will just simply just be getting people to know me, they don’t know me.”



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Senators call on IRS to automatically send stimulus checks to seniors

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WASHINGTON — More than three-dozen Democratic senators are pressuring the Trump administration to rescind or clarify new guidance that tells seniors to file a tax return in order to receive a stimulus payment.

Led by Sens. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the senators take issue with IRS guidelines Monday that say people who weren’t required to file tax returns for 2018 or 2019 “will need to file a simple tax return to receive an economic impact payment” under the coronavirus package.

The agency mentioned Social Security recipients in that category, which has caused confusion among some elderly Americans — an estimated 64 million Americans received Social Security benefits last year and many aren’t required to file tax returns.

“This filing requirement would place a significant burden on retired seniors and individuals who experience disabilities, especially given the current unavailability of tax filing assistance from Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs during the COVID-19 crisis,” the senators wrote in the letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul, which is first reported by NBC News.

They called on the IRS to make the payments automatic without requiring seniors to file a return.

The signatories include Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Minority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (Vt.), former candidates Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking member of the Finance Committee.

Hassan’s office argued that IRS guidance goes against the language of the law, which states that for non-tax-filing seniors, Treasury may use Social Security statements like SSA-1099 or RBR-1099 to determine eligibility and make payments.

It is unclear if the IRS will fall back on those Social Security statements or if failure to file at least a simple tax return will disqualify elderly Americans from getting a direct deposit or check.

A spokesperson for the IRS did not return a message seeking comment.

Chuck Marr, a tax policy expert at the progressive-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, estimated that more than 15 million Social Security beneficiaries “who currently don’t file tax returns and aren’t otherwise required to do so would have to file, if Treasury doesn’t use its authority to get those people payments automatically.”



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Dem super PAC launches ads hitting Trump on coronavirus response

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Dem super PAC launches ads hitting Trump on coronavirus response

WASHINGTON — Priorities USA Action, the biggest Democratic super PAC working to deny President Trump re-election, is out with a new ad campaign that criticizes the president’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. 

The group released two television ads Monday — one on coronavirus and one aimed at contrasting Trump with former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading the Democratic primary race. 

The first spot includes various comments of President Trump talking about the virus over a span of months run one after another as a graphic shows the number of coronavirus cases in America rising exponentially. 

“The coronavirus…this is their new hoax…we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China…One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear…When you have 15 people…and within a couple of days, it’s going to be close to down to zero,” Trump can be heard saying in those spliced-together comments.

The spot then ends with video of Trump telling reporters on March 13 that “I don’t take responsibility at all” when asked about the delays in testing.

The second television spots paints a dismal picture of the current situation, “Thousands infected, an economy in free fall, and government unprepared,” before showing that same clip of Trump saying he doesn’t take responsibility for the test-kit shortage. 

The ad then shows Biden’s address on coronavirus from earlier this month, where he said “I can promise you this: When I’m president, we will be better prepared, respond better, we’ll lead with science.” 

Priorities also unveiled two digital ads along similar lines

The Trump administration, his campaign and his allies have been on the defensive as to its response to the coronavirus pandemic in recent weeks, arguing that the administration has taken action that has stopped the pandemic from getting worse.

They’ve also accused Democrats of misrepresenting at least one comment, arguing that he said “this is their new hoax” in referring to Democratic criticism of his administration’s coronavirus response, not about the virus itself. 

Priorities will run the first TV ad that solely criticizes Trump as part of a $6 million TV and digital campaign across Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the Biden contrast ad could also hit the airwaves after that ad runs, but the timing for that is not clear. The two digital ads will begin running online starting Tuesday. 

The group has said it plans to spend $150 million before the Democratic convention, much of it on the airwaves. 

“From the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Donald Trump has repeatedly misled the American people and exposed us to unnecessary danger. His failure to lead continues to have real life and death consequences as hospitals, local and state governments, small businesses, and millions of Americans are left without the tools and information they need,” Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil said in a statement.

“Tens of thousands of people are sick, hundreds have already died, and millions are losing their jobs. We simply cannot allow Donald Trump to continue to lie and spread misinformation unchecked.”

Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director, criticized the Priorities ads in a statement to NBC News. 

“It used to be that Americans faced national adversity with unity, but Joe Biden and his allies have abandoned that principle in favor of rank, despicable politics. They offer nothing but partisan sniping from the sidelines and seek to undermine the federal response to the crisis by misinforming and frightening people,” he said.

“All Joe Biden knows about handling a public health crisis is that the Obama White House had to apologize for his irresponsible remarks during the swine flu outbreak in 2009. Americans can see that President Trump is out front and leading this nation and is the clear choice to see us through the crisis.”

UPDATE: On Wednesday, the Trump campaign said it sent television stations cease and desist letters calling on the stations to stop running the ad, arguing that the “hoax” comment from Trump was falsely represented in the ad. 

Bloomberg campaign faces potential class action lawsuit for layoffs

WASHINGTON — Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign is facing a potential class action lawsuit for allegedly promising jobs through November to more than a thousand campaign staffers and then laying them off last week.

A former field organizer, Donna Wood, filed the suit today in U.S. District Court, in the southern district of New York, on behalf of herself and others seeking to get it certified by the court as a class action.

NBC News first reported in January that Bloomberg was planning to fund a major campaign effort through November and was committing to pay staff through then, even if he lost the nomination. But Bloomberg reversed course last week and laid off his entire staff. He instead transferred $18 million to the Democratic National Committee and told laid off staffers to fill out a Google form if they were interested in entering a competitive hiring process for a DNC job. The staffers will stop receiving paychecks in the first week of April, and will stop receiving health care benefits at the end of April. 

Michael Bloomberg departs after addressing supporters at his Super Tuesday night rally in West Palm Beach, Fla., on March 3, 2020.Marco Bello / Reuters

“The Bloomberg campaign had represented to folks they were going to keep people on through November, regardless of his candidacy, which is one of the reasons we think he attracted such talent,” Sally Abrahamson of Outten & Golden LLP, one of the attorneys on the case, told NBC News. “He’s terminating, we believe, over 1,000 people at a time when we believe unemployment is likely going to be 20 or 30 percent, and they’re going to lose their health care.”

The Bloomberg campaign responded by saying that their staffers received severance and extended health care, while other campaigns didn’t give those benefits.

“This campaign paid its staff wages and benefits that were much more generous than any other campaign this year. Staff worked 39 days on average, but they were also given several weeks of severance and health care through March, something no other campaign did this year,” a Bloomberg campaign spokesperson said. “Given the current crisis, a fund is being created to ensure that all staff receive health care through April, which no other campaign has done. And many field staff will go on to work for the DNC in battleground states, in part because the campaign made the largest monetary transfer to the DNC from a presidential campaign in history to support the DNC’s organizing efforts.” 

NBC News obtained a copy of an interview script that was used by the Bloomberg campaign to evaluate potential hires for the campaign. Among the talking points listed under “At a Glance” is “Employment through November 2020 with Team Bloomberg.” 

The lawsuit has three components: unpaid overtime compensation for field organizers who would have to pro-actively join the case — attorneys involved in the case tell NBC they are talking to “dozens” of potential  claimants, alleged fraudulent inducement and breach of contract, allegedly suffered by those who were promised jobs through November, and it seeks the compensation they would have received through November. 

If the case is certified as a class action, it will move forward on behalf of everyone who falls into that category unless they opt-out of the class action.

The Affordable Care Act is turning 10. Where does the landmark law go next?

WASHINGTON — The Affordable Care Act is turning 10 this week, and it’s still in the news and still facing an existential threat from Republican critics even as some of its benefits have become widely accepted.

Among the ACA’s core features: It barred insurers from turning away customers or charging more based on pre-existing conditions, created a new subsidized market for individual private insurance, expanded Medicaid to higher income workers, eliminated lifetime and annual caps on benefits and allowed young adults to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26. 

In many ways, the 2020 election has been a debate about its legacy. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ran on moving all Americans to a Medicare for All system, rather than private insurance, while former Vice President Joe Biden has argued building on the ACA to make its benefits more generous.

On the Republican side, President Trump is backing a lawsuit to overturn the law in its entirety, which the Supreme Court is set to hear this Fall. He reiterated his support for that effort over the weekend, saying it would allow him to “get rid of the bad health care and put in a great health care” even as the country deals with the coronavirus pandemic with a health care system tied to the ACA.

The White House has not announced a detailed replacement plan for the law, and Biden asked Trump and Republican state officials on Monday to drop the lawsuit.

Former Montana Sen. Max Baucus, who shepherded the ACA as chair of the Senate Finance Committee said the law was a “good start” toward universal coverage. The law reduced the number of uninsured by about 20 million people after its implementation, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

President Barack Obama is applauded after signing the Affordable Care Act in the East Room of the White House on March 23, 2010.Win McNamee / Getty Images file

But that number has ticked up under President Trump and the health care system still faces rising costs for hospitals and drugs. That unsteadiness has led Baucus to embrace a single-payer health care system. 

“I felt at the time we were not ready for single payer,” Baucus told NBC News. “But down the road we’re going to move in that direction. Why? Because our current system, even under the legislation that passed, is still too inefficient. Too many dollars are being spent that don’t provide health care.”

While Baucus may agree with Sanders on the broad policy direction, he thinks Biden would be best to shepherd the next health care goal through because the next Democratic administration must seek common ground with Republicans. 

“We should try extremely hard for it to be nonpartisan and maybe begin with smaller steps at first,” he said. “Otherwise if you jam something down somebody’s throat, it’s not durable. The other side will try to figure out how to submarine it or undermine it as they did with the ACA.”

There are some signs that the law is becoming more entrenched. The GOP faced a backlash in 2017 when they tried unsuccessfully to partially repeal the law and scale back its benefits. And, while still divided along partisan lines, the latest NBC/WSJ poll found the ACA with its highest net rating: 42 percent of registered voters believe it was a good idea, versus 35 percent who say it was a bad idea.

But the ACA has struggled to meet some of its goals and the way it’s been implemented isn’t the same as supporters envisioned when it was passed.

The law’s regulations on insurers and lack of subsidies for customers making over 400 percent of the federal poverty limit have left many middle and upper income Americans facing premiums that are high or unaffordable.

“If they can’t get coverage through their job, those individuals’ premiums have skyrocketed,” said Avik Roy, founder of The Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity and critic of the law. “It could have been done in a much more effective way that guaranteed coverage for people who were sick, but also made it more affordable to people who are healthy.” 

The law has also changed over the years. President Trump’s 2017 tax bill zeroed out the ACA’s individual mandate — which penalized people for going without insurance. And some sources of funding, like a tax on more generous employer plans, have been eliminated.

The Supreme Court ruled that states had to voluntarily participate in its expansion of Medicaid, but 14 states haven’t. The Trump administration has also expanded access to insurance options outside of the law’s regulations, including plans that factor in pre-existing conditions. 

Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary under President Obama, told NBC News the law had been undermined but believes its legacy is secure. 

“The country has moved to a place where there is a vast majority of people who feel health care is a right,” she said. “I don’t think that was a given 10 years ago and it’s not just in the Democratic Party. People may have a different idea how to get there, but it’s a basic premise that people support.”

Biden ally Larry Rasky passes away at 69

WASHINGTON —Larry Rasky, a close ally of former Vice President Joe Biden who played a key role in the super PAC that boosted Biden during the Democratic presidential primary, has died. 

Rasky’s eponymous public relations firm confirmed his death in a brief statement on Sunday. 

“Larry was a giant in so many ways, not just professionally but personally. He loved and was loved by so many. He always treated the company like a family and we are all shocked and saddened by the news of his passing. He has left an indelible imprint on everyone he touched and the company that bears his name will go on in his spirit,” the statement from Rasky Partners read. 

He was 69 years old, according to the Boston Globe. The paper said the cause of death was not yet known. 

Rasky was a longtime public relations professional who worked with a lanundry list of Democratic politicians — including Biden, then-Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey (who is now a senator), former Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and President Jimmy Carter. 

Having worked as Biden’s press secretary during his 1988 presidential bid, he served as Biden’s communications director during his 2008 presidential campaign. 

This cycle, he served as the treasurer to Unite the Country, the super PAC backing Biden. 

Biden remembered Rasky during an interview with the Globe as a “real friend” who gave him “confidence.” 

“He was also generous and sharp and he just had a spirit about him. His passion for politics was amazing,” Biden told the paper. 

“No matter how down I was going into something, that ridiculous laugh of his would always make a difference. He always knew when to kid and when not to kid.”

“I think the reason people loved him was his deep loyalty to his friends and the causes he believes in,” Markey told the Globe. “It’s something that just drew people to him, and it’s why so many people are missing him today.”

Others shared their memories of Rasky on Twitter as the news broke Sunday. 

Sanders wins big in Democrats Abroad primary, party says

WASHINGTON — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has won the Democrats Abroad presidential primary, the contest held by Americans living overseas, according to results announced Monday 

Julia Bryan, the group’s global chair, shared those results on a Monday morning video conference in part due to the coronavirus outbreak that has paralyzed the world. 

She said that Sanders won 57.9 percent of the almost 40,000 ballots, with former Vice President Joe Biden following with 22.7 percent and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren winning 14.3 percent. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Los Angeles on March 1, 2020.David McNew / Getty Images

“We saw a 15 percent increase in voter participation over our 2016 primary number,” Bryan said on the call. 

“It’s particularly impressive considering the challenges we had with the virus shutting down so many of our centers.”

She added that raw voter turnout was the highest in the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, France and Mexico.

NBC’s Decision Desk has projected Sanders’ victory but has not yet allocated Democratic National Convention delegates based on those results. But Bryan said that per the Democrats Abroad rules, Sanders would receive nine delegates and Biden four based on the results. 

Not including the Democrats Abroad result, the Decision Desk projects Biden has won 1,165 delegates so far to Sanders’ 851. 

Biden calls on Trump to drop Obamacare lawsuit amid coronavirus crisis

WASHINGTON — On the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law, former Vice President Joe Biden is calling on President Donald Trump and Republicans to put politics aside during the coronavirus crisis and drop their lawsuit against the landmark health care legislation he helped shepherd through Congress.

In a letter addressed to Trump, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and 18 state attorneys general, Biden is asking them to recognize that the law they are seeking to repeal gives Americans the assurance they need during a public health crisis like the one that has currently paralyzed the country.

“At a time of national emergency, which is laying bare the existing vulnerabilities in our public health infrastructure, it is unconscionable that you are continuing to pursue a lawsuit designed to strip millions of Americans of their health insurance,” Biden writes.

“You are letting partisan rancor and politics threaten the lives of your constituents, and that is a dereliction of your sworn duty.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks March 12, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.Matt Rourke / AP file

Biden has staunchly defended building on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, throughout his campaign. His plan calls for adding a public option like Medicare that would provide coverage to Americans if they do not want to keep their private plan or are uninsured. His position has often come under fire by his most progressive rivals who describe his plan as a moderate approach to reforming the broken system.

The former vice president often tells his crowds how difficult it was to pass President Barack Obama’s landmark legislation to remind them that a complete overhaul of the healthcare system, as proposed in Medicare for All, would be impossible to pass through an already divided Congress. 

In his first letter addressed directly to the president as a candidate for his job, Biden said that many Americans can rely on accessing healthcare during the coronavirus scare thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

“It is the reason 100 million people with pre-existing conditions—including conditions like asthma and diabetes that make them at higher-risk for adverse health impacts from the coronavirus—don’t have to worry about being charged more or denied coverage,” he writes.

Biden argues that “no underlying constitutional flaw” exists within Obamacare, citing that the Supreme Court has already upheld the law twice. The only reason Texas v U.S. is being argued, Biden said, is because Congressional Republicans zeroed out the individual mandate statute in 2017, bringing into question its legality.

“History will judge all of us by how we respond to this pandemic,” Biden warned. “The public health imperative we now face is bigger than politics and it requires all of us to summon the courage to lead and to do what is right for the American people.”

Sanders’ campaign raises over $2 million for coronavirus charities

BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Bernie Sanders campaign is focusing its resources on fighting the coronavirus pandemic, and his supporters appear to be following suit. In the last 48 hours, the Sanders campaign said they’ve raised more than $2 million from 50,000 donations for select charities. 

The charities were selected by the Sanders campaign to help those suffering from the outbreak: Meals on Wheels, No Kid Hungry, Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, One Fair Wage Emergency Fund and the National Domestic Workers Alliance. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives for the Polk County Steak Fry in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sept. 21, 2019.Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

In addition to using his campaign to funnel money to charities, Sanders also released a $2 trillion proposal to fight this virus, which would include the U.S. government covering all medical bills accrued during this time period, speeding up testing, invoking emergency powers to scale up production of supplies like surgical masks and ventilators and providing substantial unemployment insurance to those who lose jobs as a result of the outbreak.

The campaign says the last two days are just the start, and they intend to raise money for other charities over the coming days.

Sanders turns his campaign to coronavirus relief

Bernie Sanders is shifting his focus from building political support to supporting efforts to respond to the coronavirus spread. The Vermont senator announced on Friday that he will host an online roundtable in Burlington, Vt., where he is “assessing the state of his campaign.” 

The roundtable will be the first public comments from Sanders since he snapped at a reporter on Wednesday for asking about his timeline for deciding on the future of his campaign. Sanders has not publicly addressed Tuesday night’s primaries, which were unanimously won by former Vice President Joe Biden.   

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) arrives at the U.S. Capitol for a vote on March 18, 2020.Win McNamee / Getty Images

Since then, Sanders senior adviser Tim Tagaris said the campaign has used social media platforms, email and text lists to “educate and activate people around his coronavirus response and raise big-money for charities helping people impacted.” On Thursday, the campaign sent an email to supporters prompting them to use a campaign-established fundraising page to donate to up to five charities helping people during the pandemic. 

Sanders also released a $2 trillion proposal on Monday that he said he would present to Democratic leadership that includes having Medicare, as it exists now, pay for all medical bills accrued during this emergency, whether or not the bill is related to the coronavirus.  

Bloomberg gives $18 million to DNC in lieu of starting his own group to beat Trump

WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is transferring $18 million left in the accounts of his now-defunct presidential campaign to the Democratic National Committee and forgoing, for now, creating his own independent political group to help Democrats in November. 

“While we considered creating our own independent entity to support the nominee and hold the President accountable, this race is too important to have many competing groups with good intentions but that are not coordinated and united in strategy and execution,” Bloomberg’s campaign said in a memo to the DNC. “The dynamics of the race have also fundamentally changed, and it is critically important that we all do everything we can to support our eventual nominee and scale the Democratic Party’s general election efforts.”

The funds will be put towards the DNC’s battleground buildup program, to hire data and operations staffers, among other efforts, in a dozen states that will be important in the general election.

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg arrives at his campaign office in Little Havana, Miami, Florida on March 3, 2020.Marco Bello / Reuters

Bloomberg will also offer to transfer campaign field offices the billionaire’s campaign set up and paid for to local state Democratic Parties as in-kind contributions. His staff, some of which were planning to transfer to work for Bloomberg’s independent entity in six battleground states, are all being laid off. They will be paid through the first week of April and have full benefits through the end of April.

“With this transfer from the Bloomberg campaign, Mayor Bloomberg and his team are making good on their commitment to beating Donald Trump,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement. “This will help us invest in more organizers across the country to elect the next president and help Democrats win up and down the ballot.”

However, this differs significantly from the message the Bloomberg campaign pushed since his entrance into the presidential race in November. The plan, if not the nominee himself, was to fund a sizable campaign effort through the general election working to elect the Democratic nominee, paying his large staff and keeping a sizable amount of offices open. 

Bloomberg spent more than $400 million on his presidential campaign and is worth an estimated $50 billion, according to Forbes, so $18 million is a relatively small amount for one of the richest men in the world.  

Since ending his campaign earlier this month after a disappointing showing in Super Tuesday contests, Bloomberg has given to other pro-Democratic groups, such as a $2 million contribution to the group Swing Left, and he’s pledged at least $40 million to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Under campaign finance laws, while the contribution is well in excess of contribution limits from individuals, campaigns are allowed to make unlimited contributions to party committees. 

Yang nonprofit announces coronavirus relief effort for the Bronx

As Congress and the White House work to pass an emergency economic stimulus bill in response to the coronavirus pandemic, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is taking matters into his own hands.

Yang’s new nonprofit organization, Humanity Forward, announced Friday it will be distributing at least $1 million in $1,000 cash payments to 1,000 working poor households in the Bronx as part of a coronavirus relief fund in partnership with other organizations. 

“Given the nature of this crisis, we thought it was imperative to act now and get money into people’s hands, and also demonstrate that this is exactly what our government should be doing,” Yang told NBC News. 

Andrew Yang speaks during a campaign event in Milford, N.H., on Feb. 5, 2020.Brendan McDermid / Reuters

The one-time payments will be provided within the next two weeks to clients of Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, a financial empowerment nonprofit. Additionally, Humanity Forward is also partnering with One Fair Wage, a nonprofit advocacy group, to support service workers across New York City who have been impacted by COVID-19-related closures — through cash relief payments of $213 to symbolize the $2.13 an hour tipped minimum wage.

“The coronavirus has seized up our economy and sent it into a tailspin and the people that are suffering most are service workers,” Yang told NBC News. “New York City is also the most densely populated part of the country, and if there’s any place you would want people to have the ability to stay home and look after themselves and their families, it would be in New York.”

Sources familiar with Yang’s thinking say the entrepreneur is seriously considering a run for New York City mayor, where he could implement UBI at a local level — he even spoke with Michael Bloomberg recently about a potential bid.

His organization’s coronavirus relief effort will also include $100,000 in micro-grants of $250 or $500 to individuals who request emergency funds directly via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

Yang said the direct cash payment proposal in the Senate GOP relief bill is going to be an “instrumental and vital” game-changer for millions of Americans.

“I’m thrilled that they’re landing on direct cash in Americans’ hands,” he said. “If it had been up to me, I perhaps wouldn’t have means-tested it at that level, but it’s going to help tens of millions of Americans and that’s the goal. So I’m glad that they’re heading in the right direction.”

Yang was critical of the Trump administration’s response to the crisis, but hopes the president will support an emergency universal basic income plan regardless of any political downside for Democrats.

“Most everyone thinks that they botched the handling of trying to impede the spread of the virus initially, so I can’t imagine anyone who thinks that this is going to be a political positive for the Trump administration,” said Yang. “We’re in this mess, we have to try and take care of our people.” 

Yang added that his team has been in communication with the White House legislative office, providing research on cash transfers for citizens to the Treasury Department. Yang says he also has been in contact with former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign, but would not speculate on cabinet possibilities.

Yang said his current priority is providing immediate relief to those most affected by the coronavirus, but he hopes to fund UBI pilot programs in the future

“I think people are going to like it, and that after it happens in response to this crisis, then people will say, ‘Wait a minute, I’d probably like it no matter what, and it will prepare us for the next crisis,’” Yang said.

Yang is confident that exploring universal basic income will be part of the conversation in the general election.

“Americans are going to be dramatically impacted by getting money into our hands, and I think there’s a real chance that this becomes a major issue in the 2020 election itself — and it may be in the Democratic Party platform,” Yang told NBC News. “I believe that this is going to become the law of the land sometime in the next number of months and years because it’s going to be hard to put the genie back in the bottle honestly.” 

“I would never be someone who would wish this terrible crisis and pandemic on our country, but I do believe that our campaign might have advanced this particular solution right at the right time.”

Disability community vote up for grabs in 2020, poll finds

WASHINGTON — A new poll finds that more than half of potential voters in battleground states say they have a disability (16 percent), a family member with one (32 percent), or a close friend who does (11 percent), and the voting bloc is largely contested ahead of the 2020 elections. 

The results released by the Democratic polling firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR), and the disability rights organization, RespectAbility, also show that the disability community favors Joe Biden over Senator Bernie Sanders in head-to-heads with President Trump.

Wheelchair-accessible voting machines at a polling station in Chula Vista, Calif., on March 3, 2020.Bing Guan / Reuters file

Among battleground voters in the disability community, 49 percent prefer Biden compared to 44 percent who support the president — only a five point difference, which is within the poll’s margin of error. With Sanders as the Democratic nominee however, 45 percent favor Trump while 44 percent prefer Sanders.

For those identifying as personally having a disability, Biden has a greater advantage. 53 percent of the group back the former vice president versus Trump’s 41 percent. Just 45 percent of disabled voters prefer Sanders compared to a close 44 percent who support Trump. 

The results from the disability community closely resemble the results from all voters interviewed in battleground states. Similar to that subset, 49 percent and 45 percent of all voters support Biden and Trump respectively. Trump holds a one percentage point lead over Sanders, 46 percent to 45 percent, among all voters. 

On a phone call with reporters Thursday, the Chairman of RespectAbility, Steve Bartlett, said that the poll results reveal that the disability community “is a very large segment of the voting public” and that the demographic is really “up for grabs” this election season.

“Candidates should not take this lightly,” he said, noting that attention to disability issues can garner candidates more support from the voting bloc.

In Senate and House races, the poll shows that the disability community leans slightly Democratic but is largely split between supporting Democratic and Republican candidates. In a generic Senate vote in the battleground states, half of the disability community reported they would back the Democratic candidate while 47 percent would support the Republican. On the House side, just over half — 51 percent — said they would vote Democratic compared to 46 percent who would go with the Republican.

Health care was top of mind for voters in the disability community with nearly 40 percent of the group reporting that the issue is an important consideration in determining which candidate to support in the 2020 elections. The economy and jobs came in a close second with just over one third of the disability community highlighting the issue.

Only eight percent said that the novel coronavirus is a major issue for them heading into the elections though, GQRR CEO, Stan Greenberg, said that these numbers will likely change as the pandemic worsens.

The poll was conducted by Greenberg Research and Democracy Corps, and interviewed 1,000 registered voters over the phone from March 9 to March 16 in sixteen presidential and Senate battleground states. The states included Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. 

590 respondents are members of the disability community and reflect voters in battleground states overall in terms of their demographic makeup. The poll’s margin of error is three percent. 



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Trump re-elect effort campaigns virtually as coronavirus outbreak pauses normal voter interaction

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Trump re-elect effort campaigns virtually as coronavirus outbreak pauses normal voter interaction

WASHINGTON – Since the coronavirus pandemic has essentially brought the 2020 race to a halt, President Trump’s campaign and Republican National Committee have pivoted to a fully virtual outreach plan as millions of voters are confined to their homes. 

On Saturday, the Trump re-election effort made a record 1.5 million calls, marking the first time this kind of voter contact has been done purely remotely by the party, according to the RNC. Volunteers highlighted the administration’s response to the current health crisis, while encouraging supporters to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for their own safety.

“With our ability to engage with voters virtually and digitally, Trump Victory is not missing a beat, and we continue to be full steam ahead to November,” RNC Chief of Staff Richard Walters told NBC News in a statement.

After President Trump announced strict new social distancing rules last week, the campaign and RNC had to convert all their in-person campaign events into virtual interactions, including fundraisers. Earlier this month, the campaign had to postpone several high-profile surrogate events, including a multi-day, high-dollar swing for Ivanka Trump and a California trip for first lady Melania Trump.

President Donald Trump arrives to a rally in Sunrise, Fla., on Nov. 26, 2019.Brynn Anderson / AP file

Since then, Trump Victory – the joint operation between the campaign and the RNC – has held hundreds of volunteer trainings in virtual settings, including using an application called “Trump Talk.” Nearly 50,000 people signed up to use it and make calls from the comfort of their own homes in the last week alone, the RNC said.  

This past weekend, during a designated “day of action,” volunteers were provided with scripts that touted the president’s “bold leadership” on the coronavirus that has infected more than 46,000 people in the country and left at least 561 dead, according to data from Johns Hopkins as of Tuesday morning. They were instructed to highlight the “unprecedented, comprehensive, and aggressive whole of America approach,” as the administration faced some criticism from medical professionals that not enough was being done to combat the virus. 

To that point, the talking points included that Trump took “quick and decisive action” back in January to restrict entry into the U.S. from foreign nationals who had visited China. If voters didn’t answer, they were left with a voicemail from senior adviser Lara Trump which included information about “how to help slow the spread” of the deadly respiratory illness.

That messaging comes as a Democratic super PAC is launching ads that criticize Trump’s response to the virus, arguing that he did not take the virus seriously enough. 

The major societal changes that have forced millions to work from home in recent days has also contributed to a surge in online traffic for GOP websites such as Vote.GOP and TrumpVictory.com, nearly doubling their normal visitors, per the RNC. The campaign has also directed supporters to go to ArmyforTrump.com, a tool that allows volunteers to sign up for various outreach opportunities and become “digital activists.”

So far this cycle, Trump Victory has outpaced its 2016 and 2018 voters contacts, boasting 9 million to date. The number of calls made on Saturday alone was bigger than any total week of calls made ahead of the last midterm elections, the group highlighted. 

Though fundraising in March may be hampered by the pandemic’s restrictions, the re-elect effort raked in $87 million in February and has more than $231 million in the bank.

Dem super PAC launches ads hitting Trump on coronavirus response

WASHINGTON — Priorities USA Action, the biggest Democratic super PAC working to deny President Trump re-election, is out with a new ad campaign that criticizes the president’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. 

The group released two television ads Monday — one on coronavirus and one aimed at contrasting Trump with former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading the Democratic primary race. 

The first spot includes various comments of President Trump talking about the virus over a span of months run one after another as a graphic shows the number of coronavirus cases in America rising exponentially. 

“The coronavirus…this is their new hoax…we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China…One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear…When you have 15 people…and within a couple of days, it’s going to be close to down to zero,” Trump can be heard saying in those spliced-together comments.

The spot then ends with video of Trump telling reporters on March 13 that “I don’t take responsibility at all” when asked about the delays in testing.

The second television spots paints a dismal picture of the current situation, “Thousands infected, an economy in free fall, and government unprepared,” before showing that same clip of Trump saying he doesn’t take responsibility for the test-kit shortage. 

The ad then shows Biden’s address on coronavirus from earlier this month, where he said “I can promise you this: When I’m president, we will be better prepared, respond better, we’ll lead with science.” 

Priorities also unveiled two digital ads along similar lines

The Trump administration, his campaign and his allies have been on the defensive as to its response to the coronavirus pandemic in recent weeks, arguing that the administration has taken action that has stopped the pandemic from getting worse.

They’ve also accused Democrats of misrepresenting at least one comment, arguing that he said “this is their new hoax” in referring to Democratic criticism of his administration’s coronavirus response, not about the virus itself. 

Priorities will run the first TV ad that solely criticizes Trump as part of a $6 million TV and digital campaign across Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the Biden contrast ad could also hit the airwaves after that ad runs, but the timing for that is not clear. The two digital ads will begin running online starting Tuesday. 

The group has said it plans to spend $150 million before the Democratic convention, much of it on the airwaves. 

“From the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Donald Trump has repeatedly misled the American people and exposed us to unnecessary danger. His failure to lead continues to have real life and death consequences as hospitals, local and state governments, small businesses, and millions of Americans are left without the tools and information they need,” Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil said in a statement.

“Tens of thousands of people are sick, hundreds have already died, and millions are losing their jobs. We simply cannot allow Donald Trump to continue to lie and spread misinformation unchecked.”

Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director, criticized the Priorities ads in a statement to NBC News. 

“It used to be that Americans faced national adversity with unity, but Joe Biden and his allies have abandoned that principle in favor of rank, despicable politics. They offer nothing but partisan sniping from the sidelines and seek to undermine the federal response to the crisis by misinforming and frightening people,” he said.

“All Joe Biden knows about handling a public health crisis is that the Obama White House had to apologize for his irresponsible remarks during the swine flu outbreak in 2009. Americans can see that President Trump is out front and leading this nation and is the clear choice to see us through the crisis.”

UPDATE: On Wednesday, the Trump campaign said it sent television stations cease and desist letters calling on the stations to stop running the ad, arguing that the “hoax” comment from Trump was falsely represented in the ad. 

Bloomberg campaign faces potential class action lawsuit for layoffs

WASHINGTON — Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign is facing a potential class action lawsuit for allegedly promising jobs through November to more than a thousand campaign staffers and then laying them off last week.

A former field organizer, Donna Wood, filed the suit today in U.S. District Court, in the southern district of New York, on behalf of herself and others seeking to get it certified by the court as a class action.

NBC News first reported in January that Bloomberg was planning to fund a major campaign effort through November and was committing to pay staff through then, even if he lost the nomination. But Bloomberg reversed course last week and laid off his entire staff. He instead transferred $18 million to the Democratic National Committee and told laid off staffers to fill out a Google form if they were interested in entering a competitive hiring process for a DNC job. The staffers will stop receiving paychecks in the first week of April, and will stop receiving health care benefits at the end of April. 

Michael Bloomberg departs after addressing supporters at his Super Tuesday night rally in West Palm Beach, Fla., on March 3, 2020.Marco Bello / Reuters

“The Bloomberg campaign had represented to folks they were going to keep people on through November, regardless of his candidacy, which is one of the reasons we think he attracted such talent,” Sally Abrahamson of Outten & Golden LLP, one of the attorneys on the case, told NBC News. “He’s terminating, we believe, over 1,000 people at a time when we believe unemployment is likely going to be 20 or 30 percent, and they’re going to lose their health care.”

The Bloomberg campaign responded by saying that their staffers received severance and extended health care, while other campaigns didn’t give those benefits.

“This campaign paid its staff wages and benefits that were much more generous than any other campaign this year. Staff worked 39 days on average, but they were also given several weeks of severance and health care through March, something no other campaign did this year,” a Bloomberg campaign spokesperson said. “Given the current crisis, a fund is being created to ensure that all staff receive health care through April, which no other campaign has done. And many field staff will go on to work for the DNC in battleground states, in part because the campaign made the largest monetary transfer to the DNC from a presidential campaign in history to support the DNC’s organizing efforts.” 

NBC News obtained a copy of an interview script that was used by the Bloomberg campaign to evaluate potential hires for the campaign. Among the talking points listed under “At a Glance” is “Employment through November 2020 with Team Bloomberg.” 

The lawsuit has three components: unpaid overtime compensation for field organizers who would have to pro-actively join the case — attorneys involved in the case tell NBC they are talking to “dozens” of potential  claimants, alleged fraudulent inducement and breach of contract, allegedly suffered by those who were promised jobs through November, and it seeks the compensation they would have received through November. 

If the case is certified as a class action, it will move forward on behalf of everyone who falls into that category unless they opt-out of the class action.

The Affordable Care Act is turning 10. Where does the landmark law go next?

WASHINGTON — The Affordable Care Act is turning 10 this week, and it’s still in the news and still facing an existential threat from Republican critics even as some of its benefits have become widely accepted.

Among the ACA’s core features: It barred insurers from turning away customers or charging more based on pre-existing conditions, created a new subsidized market for individual private insurance, expanded Medicaid to higher income workers, eliminated lifetime and annual caps on benefits and allowed young adults to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26. 

In many ways, the 2020 election has been a debate about its legacy. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ran on moving all Americans to a Medicare for All system, rather than private insurance, while former Vice President Joe Biden has argued building on the ACA to make its benefits more generous.

On the Republican side, President Trump is backing a lawsuit to overturn the law in its entirety, which the Supreme Court is set to hear this Fall. He reiterated his support for that effort over the weekend, saying it would allow him to “get rid of the bad health care and put in a great health care” even as the country deals with the coronavirus pandemic with a health care system tied to the ACA.

The White House has not announced a detailed replacement plan for the law, and Biden asked Trump and Republican state officials on Monday to drop the lawsuit.

Former Montana Sen. Max Baucus, who shepherded the ACA as chair of the Senate Finance Committee said the law was a “good start” toward universal coverage. The law reduced the number of uninsured by about 20 million people after its implementation, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

President Barack Obama is applauded after signing the Affordable Care Act in the East Room of the White House on March 23, 2010.Win McNamee / Getty Images file

But that number has ticked up under President Trump and the health care system still faces rising costs for hospitals and drugs. That unsteadiness has led Baucus to embrace a single-payer health care system. 

“I felt at the time we were not ready for single payer,” Baucus told NBC News. “But down the road we’re going to move in that direction. Why? Because our current system, even under the legislation that passed, is still too inefficient. Too many dollars are being spent that don’t provide health care.”

While Baucus may agree with Sanders on the broad policy direction, he thinks Biden would be best to shepherd the next health care goal through because the next Democratic administration must seek common ground with Republicans. 

“We should try extremely hard for it to be nonpartisan and maybe begin with smaller steps at first,” he said. “Otherwise if you jam something down somebody’s throat, it’s not durable. The other side will try to figure out how to submarine it or undermine it as they did with the ACA.”

There are some signs that the law is becoming more entrenched. The GOP faced a backlash in 2017 when they tried unsuccessfully to partially repeal the law and scale back its benefits. And, while still divided along partisan lines, the latest NBC/WSJ poll found the ACA with its highest net rating: 42 percent of registered voters believe it was a good idea, versus 35 percent who say it was a bad idea.

But the ACA has struggled to meet some of its goals and the way it’s been implemented isn’t the same as supporters envisioned when it was passed.

The law’s regulations on insurers and lack of subsidies for customers making over 400 percent of the federal poverty limit have left many middle and upper income Americans facing premiums that are high or unaffordable.

“If they can’t get coverage through their job, those individuals’ premiums have skyrocketed,” said Avik Roy, founder of The Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity and critic of the law. “It could have been done in a much more effective way that guaranteed coverage for people who were sick, but also made it more affordable to people who are healthy.” 

The law has also changed over the years. President Trump’s 2017 tax bill zeroed out the ACA’s individual mandate — which penalized people for going without insurance. And some sources of funding, like a tax on more generous employer plans, have been eliminated.

The Supreme Court ruled that states had to voluntarily participate in its expansion of Medicaid, but 14 states haven’t. The Trump administration has also expanded access to insurance options outside of the law’s regulations, including plans that factor in pre-existing conditions. 

Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary under President Obama, told NBC News the law had been undermined but believes its legacy is secure. 

“The country has moved to a place where there is a vast majority of people who feel health care is a right,” she said. “I don’t think that was a given 10 years ago and it’s not just in the Democratic Party. People may have a different idea how to get there, but it’s a basic premise that people support.”

Biden ally Larry Rasky passes away at 69

WASHINGTON —Larry Rasky, a close ally of former Vice President Joe Biden who played a key role in the super PAC that boosted Biden during the Democratic presidential primary, has died. 

Rasky’s eponymous public relations firm confirmed his death in a brief statement on Sunday. 

“Larry was a giant in so many ways, not just professionally but personally. He loved and was loved by so many. He always treated the company like a family and we are all shocked and saddened by the news of his passing. He has left an indelible imprint on everyone he touched and the company that bears his name will go on in his spirit,” the statement from Rasky Partners read. 

He was 69 years old, according to the Boston Globe. The paper said the cause of death was not yet known. 

Rasky was a longtime public relations professional who worked with a lanundry list of Democratic politicians — including Biden, then-Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey (who is now a senator), former Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and President Jimmy Carter. 

Having worked as Biden’s press secretary during his 1988 presidential bid, he served as Biden’s communications director during his 2008 presidential campaign. 

This cycle, he served as the treasurer to Unite the Country, the super PAC backing Biden. 

Biden remembered Rasky during an interview with the Globe as a “real friend” who gave him “confidence.” 

“He was also generous and sharp and he just had a spirit about him. His passion for politics was amazing,” Biden told the paper. 

“No matter how down I was going into something, that ridiculous laugh of his would always make a difference. He always knew when to kid and when not to kid.”

“I think the reason people loved him was his deep loyalty to his friends and the causes he believes in,” Markey told the Globe. “It’s something that just drew people to him, and it’s why so many people are missing him today.”

Others shared their memories of Rasky on Twitter as the news broke Sunday. 

Sanders wins big in Democrats Abroad primary, party says

WASHINGTON — Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has won the Democrats Abroad presidential primary, the contest held by Americans living overseas, according to results announced Monday 

Julia Bryan, the group’s global chair, shared those results on a Monday morning video conference in part due to the coronavirus outbreak that has paralyzed the world. 

She said that Sanders won 57.9 percent of the almost 40,000 ballots, with former Vice President Joe Biden following with 22.7 percent and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren winning 14.3 percent. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Los Angeles on March 1, 2020.David McNew / Getty Images

“We saw a 15 percent increase in voter participation over our 2016 primary number,” Bryan said on the call. 

“It’s particularly impressive considering the challenges we had with the virus shutting down so many of our centers.”

She added that raw voter turnout was the highest in the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, France and Mexico.

NBC’s Decision Desk has projected Sanders’ victory but has not yet allocated Democratic National Convention delegates based on those results. But Bryan said that per the Democrats Abroad rules, Sanders would receive nine delegates and Biden four based on the results. 

Not including the Democrats Abroad result, the Decision Desk projects Biden has won 1,165 delegates so far to Sanders’ 851. 

Biden calls on Trump to drop Obamacare lawsuit amid coronavirus crisis

WASHINGTON — On the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law, former Vice President Joe Biden is calling on President Donald Trump and Republicans to put politics aside during the coronavirus crisis and drop their lawsuit against the landmark health care legislation he helped shepherd through Congress.

In a letter addressed to Trump, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and 18 state attorneys general, Biden is asking them to recognize that the law they are seeking to repeal gives Americans the assurance they need during a public health crisis like the one that has currently paralyzed the country.

“At a time of national emergency, which is laying bare the existing vulnerabilities in our public health infrastructure, it is unconscionable that you are continuing to pursue a lawsuit designed to strip millions of Americans of their health insurance,” Biden writes.

“You are letting partisan rancor and politics threaten the lives of your constituents, and that is a dereliction of your sworn duty.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks March 12, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.Matt Rourke / AP file

Biden has staunchly defended building on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, throughout his campaign. His plan calls for adding a public option like Medicare that would provide coverage to Americans if they do not want to keep their private plan or are uninsured. His position has often come under fire by his most progressive rivals who describe his plan as a moderate approach to reforming the broken system.

The former vice president often tells his crowds how difficult it was to pass President Barack Obama’s landmark legislation to remind them that a complete overhaul of the healthcare system, as proposed in Medicare for All, would be impossible to pass through an already divided Congress. 

In his first letter addressed directly to the president as a candidate for his job, Biden said that many Americans can rely on accessing healthcare during the coronavirus scare thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

“It is the reason 100 million people with pre-existing conditions—including conditions like asthma and diabetes that make them at higher-risk for adverse health impacts from the coronavirus—don’t have to worry about being charged more or denied coverage,” he writes.

Biden argues that “no underlying constitutional flaw” exists within Obamacare, citing that the Supreme Court has already upheld the law twice. The only reason Texas v U.S. is being argued, Biden said, is because Congressional Republicans zeroed out the individual mandate statute in 2017, bringing into question its legality.

“History will judge all of us by how we respond to this pandemic,” Biden warned. “The public health imperative we now face is bigger than politics and it requires all of us to summon the courage to lead and to do what is right for the American people.”

Sanders’ campaign raises over $2 million for coronavirus charities

BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Bernie Sanders campaign is focusing its resources on fighting the coronavirus pandemic, and his supporters appear to be following suit. In the last 48 hours, the Sanders campaign said they’ve raised more than $2 million from 50,000 donations for select charities. 

The charities were selected by the Sanders campaign to help those suffering from the outbreak: Meals on Wheels, No Kid Hungry, Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, One Fair Wage Emergency Fund and the National Domestic Workers Alliance. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives for the Polk County Steak Fry in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sept. 21, 2019.Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

In addition to using his campaign to funnel money to charities, Sanders also released a $2 trillion proposal to fight this virus, which would include the U.S. government covering all medical bills accrued during this time period, speeding up testing, invoking emergency powers to scale up production of supplies like surgical masks and ventilators and providing substantial unemployment insurance to those who lose jobs as a result of the outbreak.

The campaign says the last two days are just the start, and they intend to raise money for other charities over the coming days.

Sanders turns his campaign to coronavirus relief

Bernie Sanders is shifting his focus from building political support to supporting efforts to respond to the coronavirus spread. The Vermont senator announced on Friday that he will host an online roundtable in Burlington, Vt., where he is “assessing the state of his campaign.” 

The roundtable will be the first public comments from Sanders since he snapped at a reporter on Wednesday for asking about his timeline for deciding on the future of his campaign. Sanders has not publicly addressed Tuesday night’s primaries, which were unanimously won by former Vice President Joe Biden.   

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) arrives at the U.S. Capitol for a vote on March 18, 2020.Win McNamee / Getty Images

Since then, Sanders senior adviser Tim Tagaris said the campaign has used social media platforms, email and text lists to “educate and activate people around his coronavirus response and raise big-money for charities helping people impacted.” On Thursday, the campaign sent an email to supporters prompting them to use a campaign-established fundraising page to donate to up to five charities helping people during the pandemic. 

Sanders also released a $2 trillion proposal on Monday that he said he would present to Democratic leadership that includes having Medicare, as it exists now, pay for all medical bills accrued during this emergency, whether or not the bill is related to the coronavirus.  

Bloomberg gives $18 million to DNC in lieu of starting his own group to beat Trump

WASHINGTON — Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is transferring $18 million left in the accounts of his now-defunct presidential campaign to the Democratic National Committee and forgoing, for now, creating his own independent political group to help Democrats in November. 

“While we considered creating our own independent entity to support the nominee and hold the President accountable, this race is too important to have many competing groups with good intentions but that are not coordinated and united in strategy and execution,” Bloomberg’s campaign said in a memo to the DNC. “The dynamics of the race have also fundamentally changed, and it is critically important that we all do everything we can to support our eventual nominee and scale the Democratic Party’s general election efforts.”

The funds will be put towards the DNC’s battleground buildup program, to hire data and operations staffers, among other efforts, in a dozen states that will be important in the general election.

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg arrives at his campaign office in Little Havana, Miami, Florida on March 3, 2020.Marco Bello / Reuters

Bloomberg will also offer to transfer campaign field offices the billionaire’s campaign set up and paid for to local state Democratic Parties as in-kind contributions. His staff, some of which were planning to transfer to work for Bloomberg’s independent entity in six battleground states, are all being laid off. They will be paid through the first week of April and have full benefits through the end of April.

“With this transfer from the Bloomberg campaign, Mayor Bloomberg and his team are making good on their commitment to beating Donald Trump,” DNC Chair Tom Perez said in a statement. “This will help us invest in more organizers across the country to elect the next president and help Democrats win up and down the ballot.”

However, this differs significantly from the message the Bloomberg campaign pushed since his entrance into the presidential race in November. The plan, if not the nominee himself, was to fund a sizable campaign effort through the general election working to elect the Democratic nominee, paying his large staff and keeping a sizable amount of offices open. 

Bloomberg spent more than $400 million on his presidential campaign and is worth an estimated $50 billion, according to Forbes, so $18 million is a relatively small amount for one of the richest men in the world.  

Since ending his campaign earlier this month after a disappointing showing in Super Tuesday contests, Bloomberg has given to other pro-Democratic groups, such as a $2 million contribution to the group Swing Left, and he’s pledged at least $40 million to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Under campaign finance laws, while the contribution is well in excess of contribution limits from individuals, campaigns are allowed to make unlimited contributions to party committees. 

Yang nonprofit announces coronavirus relief effort for the Bronx

As Congress and the White House work to pass an emergency economic stimulus bill in response to the coronavirus pandemic, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang is taking matters into his own hands.

Yang’s new nonprofit organization, Humanity Forward, announced Friday it will be distributing at least $1 million in $1,000 cash payments to 1,000 working poor households in the Bronx as part of a coronavirus relief fund in partnership with other organizations. 

“Given the nature of this crisis, we thought it was imperative to act now and get money into people’s hands, and also demonstrate that this is exactly what our government should be doing,” Yang told NBC News. 

Andrew Yang speaks during a campaign event in Milford, N.H., on Feb. 5, 2020.Brendan McDermid / Reuters

The one-time payments will be provided within the next two weeks to clients of Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, a financial empowerment nonprofit. Additionally, Humanity Forward is also partnering with One Fair Wage, a nonprofit advocacy group, to support service workers across New York City who have been impacted by COVID-19-related closures — through cash relief payments of $213 to symbolize the $2.13 an hour tipped minimum wage.

“The coronavirus has seized up our economy and sent it into a tailspin and the people that are suffering most are service workers,” Yang told NBC News. “New York City is also the most densely populated part of the country, and if there’s any place you would want people to have the ability to stay home and look after themselves and their families, it would be in New York.”

Sources familiar with Yang’s thinking say the entrepreneur is seriously considering a run for New York City mayor, where he could implement UBI at a local level — he even spoke with Michael Bloomberg recently about a potential bid.

His organization’s coronavirus relief effort will also include $100,000 in micro-grants of $250 or $500 to individuals who request emergency funds directly via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

Yang said the direct cash payment proposal in the Senate GOP relief bill is going to be an “instrumental and vital” game-changer for millions of Americans.

“I’m thrilled that they’re landing on direct cash in Americans’ hands,” he said. “If it had been up to me, I perhaps wouldn’t have means-tested it at that level, but it’s going to help tens of millions of Americans and that’s the goal. So I’m glad that they’re heading in the right direction.”

Yang was critical of the Trump administration’s response to the crisis, but hopes the president will support an emergency universal basic income plan regardless of any political downside for Democrats.

“Most everyone thinks that they botched the handling of trying to impede the spread of the virus initially, so I can’t imagine anyone who thinks that this is going to be a political positive for the Trump administration,” said Yang. “We’re in this mess, we have to try and take care of our people.” 

Yang added that his team has been in communication with the White House legislative office, providing research on cash transfers for citizens to the Treasury Department. Yang says he also has been in contact with former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign, but would not speculate on cabinet possibilities.

Yang said his current priority is providing immediate relief to those most affected by the coronavirus, but he hopes to fund UBI pilot programs in the future

“I think people are going to like it, and that after it happens in response to this crisis, then people will say, ‘Wait a minute, I’d probably like it no matter what, and it will prepare us for the next crisis,’” Yang said.

Yang is confident that exploring universal basic income will be part of the conversation in the general election.

“Americans are going to be dramatically impacted by getting money into our hands, and I think there’s a real chance that this becomes a major issue in the 2020 election itself — and it may be in the Democratic Party platform,” Yang told NBC News. “I believe that this is going to become the law of the land sometime in the next number of months and years because it’s going to be hard to put the genie back in the bottle honestly.” 

“I would never be someone who would wish this terrible crisis and pandemic on our country, but I do believe that our campaign might have advanced this particular solution right at the right time.”



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