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Biden calls on Sanders to take accountability for supporters’ threats

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LAS VEGAS — Joe Biden called on Bernie Sanders to accept greater accountability for tactics and rhetoric of his staunchest supporters and do more to discourage it, after what he called the “outrageous” threats on a prominent union that criticized his healthcare plan.

Representatives of the powerful Culinary Workers Union, which represents 60,000 workers supporting Nevada’s gaming and hospitality industries, said this week that supporters of the Vermont senator had “viciously attacked” its members after its leadership warned about the risk to their negotiated health plans under a Medicare for All system.

In an exclusive interview airing Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Biden said the Vermont senator “may not be responsible for it, but he has some accountability.”

Read more on this story at NBCNews.com and watch “Meet the Press with Chuck Todd” tomorrow at 9 a.m. ET or check local listings.

“You know me well enough to know if any of my supporters did that, I’d disown them. Flat disown them,” Biden said. “The stuff that was said online. The way they threatened these two women who are leaders in that Culinary union. It is outrageous. Just — just go online.”

In a PBS interview Thursday, Sanders called the attacks on Culinary leadership “not acceptable.”

“I don’t know who these so-called supporters are,” he said. “We’re living in a strange world on the Internet. And sometimes people attack people in somebody else’s name. But let me be very clear. Anybody making personal attacks against anybody else in my name is not part of my movement.”

Calling attacks “vicious, malicious, misogynistic,” Biden said it wasn’t enough for Sanders to simply disassociate himself from those making them. He needs to “find out who the hell they are, if any of them work for [him]. Fire them.”

“I’m hoping he’s looking. But I tell you what: so far I don’t think it’s sufficient just to say, ‘I disassociate myself,’” he added.

Biden’s comments came between campaign stops Saturday. After a fourth-place finish in Iowa and fifth place in New Hampshire, the remaining early contests in Nevada and South Carolina have taken on even greater urgency for the former vice president.

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Biden leads Sanders in Wisconsin primary poll

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WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by over 30 points in Wisconsin, according to the latest Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday. Per this poll, Biden garnered 65 percent support among likely Democratic voters versus Sanders’ 32 percent support.

Wisconsin’s primary, which is still scheduled to take place on April 7 despite the coronavirus pandemic, is one of the only contests still taking place in April — and it could be a stunning defeat for Sanders. In 2016, Sanders won the Wisconsin primary by 14 points. On Wednesday, Sanders called for the Wisconsin primary to be postponed, have early voting extended and encouraged people to vote by mail. 

Despite lagging poll numbers, Sanders has said he will continue to assess his campaign and stay in the race. On Wednesday he said on MSNBC, “We’re taking a hard look at our campaign. We do have a narrow road, a path to victory. It’s going to be a tough fight.” 

Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic at an event in Wilmington, Del., on March 12, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters file

Biden has since said that there isn’t a need for more Democratic debates, but that he will not call for Sanders to exit the race. 

The new poll also shows Biden just narrowly pushing ahead of President Trump in a general election match-up, where Sanders lags slightly behind Trump. Forty-eight percent of registered voters support Biden in a general election, with 45 percent supporting the president — however that falls within the poll’s 4.2-point margin of error. The poll’s February tracker showed the president and Biden tied in the state. 

Wisconsin could become a must-win state for both the president and the eventual Democratic nominee. President Trump was the first Republican nominee to win Wisconsin since former President Ronald Reagan in 1984. And much of Biden’s campaign has been focused on restoring the so-called “Blue Wall” in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. 

Laid off Bloomberg staffers docked taxes for campaign phones, computers

WASHINGTON — Laid off campaign staffers to Michael Bloomberg’s campaign who received their final paychecks on Tuesday were docked hundreds of dollars to cover taxes on their campaign-issued cellphone and laptop, three former Bloomberg campaign staffers told NBC News.

The deductions came as a lawsuit against the Bloomberg campaign, alleging that the campaign fraudulently promised jobs through November, has grown from one plaintiff to more than 50. The plaintiffs are seeking to get the case certified as a class action in seven states, a move that could raise the number of claimants to over a thousand.  

Former staffers told NBC News that their paychecks were docked more than $400. The Bloomberg campaign had touted how they had lured top talent to the campaign with new iPhone 11s and MacBooks, and offered to let staff keep them when they were let go. A campaign spokesperson said staffers were told during the off-boarding process that they’d pay taxes on those items, but several former staffers said they did not realize that it would be automatically deducted from their remaining paychecks.

Mike Bloomberg greets Jewish voters at Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in Aventura, Fla. on Jan. 26, 2020.Andrew Uloza / AP file

Sally Abrahamson, an attorney for the former staffers suing the campaign, said her firm, Outten & Golden, is now investigating the campaign’s deduction of “purported taxes on cell phones and laptops.”

“It doesn’t sound right. How can workers be expected to pay taxes on something they didn’t want?” Abrahamson told NBC News. “The law certainly doesn’t allow an employer to pay wages with anything but money.”

Earlier this month, Bloomberg abandoned his initiative to form an independent super PAC to absorb his presidential campaign and instead transferred $18 million to the Democratic National Committee. He laid off his staff of more than 2,400 people in that process and those staff members were invited to enter a competitive hiring process for a job at the DNC. Laid off staff will lose their health insurance at the end of April amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The lawsuit, filed by a former field organizer, alleges that Bloomberg’s campaign promised potential hires they’d have jobs through November regardless of who won the nomination. Many of the 50 additional plaintiffs who joined the lawsuit in an amended complaint filed in federal court Monday said they left other lucrative jobs and relocated across the country based on the campaign’s assurances.

A Bloomberg campaign spokesperson, responding to both the docked paychecks and the expanded lawsuit, re-issued the campaign’s statement from earlier in March. 

“This campaign paid its staff wages and benefits that were much more generous than any other campaign this year,” the spokesperson said. “Staff worked 39 days on average, but they were also given several weeks of severance and healthcare  through March, something no other campaign did this year.”

Democratic groups significantly outspending GOP groups on airwaves since coronavirus crackdown

WASHINGTON — Democratic candidates and aligned groups are outspending their Republican counterparts in the two weeks since President Trump announced guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. 

There’s been $23.5 million spent on political advertising from March 16 (the day the administration announced its “15 Days to Slow the Spread” guidelines) through Tuesday, with Democrats making up 69 percent of that ($16.2 million), Republicans making up 29 percent of that ($6.7 million), and independent groups filling in that last 2 percent. 

All of these figures are from the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. 

Four of the top five biggest spenders over this period were Democrats:

  • Senate Majority PAC, the group aligned with Senate Democrats, has spent $3 million
  • Priorities USA Action, which is backing former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential bid, has spent $2.8 million
  • One Nation, the non-profit aligned with Republican efforts particularly in the Senate, has spent $1.7 million
  • American Bridge 21st Century, the Democratic-aligned group that plays up and down the ballot, has spent $1.3 million
  • And Unite the Country, the pro-Biden super PAC, has spent $741,000

The ad backed by the most spending in that window was from Priorities USA, which is running an ad that’s criticizing Trump’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s spent $1.2 million to run that spot so far. 

The ad with the second-most money behind it is from Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, attacking Biden on Social Security and Medicare. Although both Biden and Sanders have wound down their ad spending to a virtual halt recently, Sanders spent $620,000 to run the ad over the time period. Virtually all of that came in the days surrounding the March 17 primaries, the ad has barely run since. 

The Republican-aligned ad with the most spending behind it in recent weeks has been from One Nation, a spot that plays up Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst’s work on prescription drugs. That spot has had $333,000 behind it since March 16. 

During this time period, the top markets were the Portland-Aurburn market in Maine, Phoenix, and two markets in Florida covering Orlando and Tampa.

Maine is home to GOP Sen. Susan Collins’ re-election race; Arizona held its presidential primary on March 17 and has a competitive Senate race; and Florida also held its presidential primary on March 17.

Physician embraces his expertise while campaigning in the coronavirus era

WASHINGTON — As candidates across the country adjust to campaigning in the age of coronavirus, Dr. Cameron Webb sees an opportunity and is embracing his experiences as a physician and public health expert on the trail. 

“It’s necessary to have the range of professional backgrounds represented in our legislature,” Webb told NBC News in a recent phone interview. “I think the expertise that I have is really useful in a moment like this.” 

Dr. Cameron Webb.Dr. Cameron Webb for Congress

Webb hopes to be the first Democrat to fill Virginia’s fifth congressional seat since 2008, a GOP-held district the size of New Jersey that includes Charlottesville and much of central Virginia. A practicing physician and a public health sciences director at the University of Virginia’s medical school, he has made expanding affordable health care a major focus of his career and campaign. 

“My job is to walk into rooms and ask people where it hurts,” Webb explained. “When you have a district that’s this diverse, that’s this broad, you have to be a really skilled listener in order to meet everybody’s needs.” 

So far, the candidate thinks this strategy of listening to voters like he does with patients has been effective, and that his background allows him and his campaign to “model the leadership” required during the coronavirus crisis. 

Webb, who serves on Virginia’s Medicaid board, remarked that he’s grateful for his state’s 2019 Medicaid expansion as the pandemic takes a toll on patients and businesses.

The candidate previously worked under both Presidents Obama and Trump as a White House Fellow serving on the health care team and a drug pricing task force. When speaking to NBC News, he compared Obama’s track record on public health to Trump’s, commenting that there are “very clear differences” in how this pandemic would play out under the former president.

Although Webb stressed that he won’t use the novel coronavirus as political leverage, he argued that the crisis reveals “other fault lines” in society and called out the American health care system for failing people. 

“We’re seeing the lack of access to health care through the lens of this virus,” he said. 

Republican candidate for Virginia governor, Denver Riggleman, speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Richmond, Virginia, Jan. 31, 2017.Steve Helber / AP

The fifth district is widely-considered a likely Republican seat and includes counties that pivoted from pro-Obama to pro-Trump but Webb doesn’t view the race as an “uphill battle.” The physician must beat out four other candidates in the Democratic primary before facing expected GOP competitor, Rep. Denver Riggleman, who won the district by almost seven percentage points in 2018. 

The Riggleman campaign did not respond to a request for comment but the congressman’s Virginia distillery, Silverback, recently began producing hand sanitizer, which it’s offering for free to first responders and health care workers during the coronavirus outbreak.

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the UVA Center for Politics, told NBC News last week that Republicans are favored to win the district but that it’s competitive enough to elect a Democrat “under the right circumstances.” He noted that Webb may “fit the moment.”

The Democratic primary is currently scheduled for June 9 and the district is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s list of seats it aims to flip from red to blue.

Sanders: ‘There is a path’ to the nomination

READINGTON, N.J. — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has been coy as of late about the future of his presidential campaign, told “Late Night” host Seth Myers on Monday he believes “there is a path” for him to win the Democratic nomination.

Sanders currently trails former Vice President Joe Biden by 312 delegates according to NBC News’ delegate tracker, and most of the Democratic primary races that occur in April have been pushed to later this Spring or Summer due to the coronavirus pandemic. But on Monday, Sanders touted his grassroots support which helped him earned first place finishes in a number of the early voting states, including delegate-rich California. 

“There is a path. It is admittedly a narrow path,” Sanders said. 

He added, “We have a strong grassroots movement who believe that we have got to stay in, in order to continue the fight to make the world know that we need Medicare for All, that we need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, that we need paid family and medical leave,” Sanders said. 

But Sanders did repeat his promise that he would support Biden if he himself is not the nominee.

“We’re seeing just how dangerous [President Trump] is with all of the misinformation that he is providing during this Coronavirus pandemic,” Sanders said, “So, yes, we have got to defeat Trump.”

Earlier this month when asked about the future of his campaign, Sanders said he was “focused” on coronavirus legislation, and heatedly told reporters that that he was not interested in answering campaign questions.

“I’m dealing with a f****** global crisis. You know? We’re dealing with it and you’re asking me these questions,” Sanders told reporters earlier this month. 

After suffering a series of losses in primary states in March, Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir told reporters the senator was “going to be having conversations with supporters to assess his campaign” from Burlington, Vt. which is where Sanders has been when he was not voting in the Senate. 

Republican, Democratic super PACs place initial ad buys in fight for Senate

WASHINGTON — Key Republican and Democratic super PACs have announced big spending plans in the fight for the Senate majority. 

Both the Senate Majority PAC and the Senate Leadership Fund, groups aligned with top Democratic and Republican leaders respectively, have announced their first round of television advertising investments in recent days. The groups are focusing on five of the same states — Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina — with Senate Leadership Fund spending in Kentucky as well. 

SLF is booking $67.1 million, the group announced in a press release last week. And SMP is booking $69.2 million, it said in a press release Monday. 

Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C., during a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Jan. 15, 2019.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

North Carolina is the beneficiary of the most early ad booking, with the Democratic SMP announcing plans to reserve $25.6 million there and the Republican SLF planning to book $21.8 million. There, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis will take on Democratic former state Sen. Cal Cunningham.

An NBC News/Marist University poll taken in late February of that race showed Cunningham up 5 points on Tillis among registered voters, 48 percent to 43 percent, within the margin of error. That poll took place just before the state’s primary. 

The race receiving the next-most early booking dollars is Iowa, where Republican Sen. Joni Ernst is defending her seat against whichever Democrat wins the primary currently scheduled for June 2.

Ernst’s favorability rating fell to 47 percent among Iowa adults in the March Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll, but 41 percent of likely voters said they’d definitely vote to re-elect Ernst compared to 31 percent who said they’d definitely vote for someone else. 

Close behind in that early-spending figure is Arizona, where SMP is booking $15.7 million and SLF is booking $9.2 million through an affiliate group called Defend Arizona. There, Republican Sen. Martha McSally is looking to win the rest of the term vacated by the death of the late Republican Sen. John McCain.

While McSally lost the state’s 2018 Senate race, she was appointed to fill McCain’s seat after his death. A recent Monmouth University poll had Kelly up 6 points over McSally among registered voters, within the margin of error. 

Then there’s Maine, which has already been home to a significant bevy of television ad spending by other outside groups. SMP is booking $9.6 million there while SLF is booking $7.2 million ahead as Republican Sen. Susan Collins seeks to defend her seat. The top Democrat in that race is state House Speaker Sarah Gideon, but Betsy Sweet, the former director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, is also running. 

The groups are also going toe-to-toe in Colorado, where Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is expected to take on former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. The Democratic SMP plans to book $5.2 million there, with the Republican SLF booking $5.5 million. 

And SLF is also putting $10.8 million in early television spending into Kentucky through another affiliated group, Keep Kentucky Great. There, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is running for reelection and will likely face off against Marine veteran Amy McGrath. 

These totals don’t include what’s expected to be a large digital presence by both groups, and the investments are likely to change as it gets closer to election day, with groups moving money around or injecting more money into competitive races. 

NYC Democratic House candidate announces positive COVID-19 test

WASHINGTON — New York City Democratic House candidate Suraj Patel has tested positive for COVID-19, he confirmed in a new statement Monday. 

Patel, one of the candidates featured in a recent MTP Blog story about how the new social distancing guidelines and the threat of coronavirus has fundamentally upended House campaigns, disclosed his positive test in a new statement posted on social media and on the blogging platform Medium

Suraj PatelSuraj Patel for Congress

He said he began developing symptoms earlier this month — which he described as “troubling tightness in my chest and difficulty breathing followed by a regular fever of 102 degrees. Patel lives with two doctors, one of whom is his brother, which he said underscored the need for him to test to see if had COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, so that his roommates would know whether they were at risk. 

Patel said that ultimately, he and his two housemates all tested positive. But he’s now “fully recovered” and “asymptomatic.”

“New Yorkers and Americans at large are stepping up in a tremendous unified way. We know how important it is to our most vulnerable populations that we slow the growth of this COVID epidemic. But as this becomes less abstract and more personal — when people’s loved ones start to show symptoms — human nature is such that we are going to want certainty and safety,” Patel wrote, before calling for universal COVID testing. 

“The only proven way to slow and eventually stop this pandemic is to have an accurate picture of who has had the disease, who currently has it, and who is still at risk. Social distancing and the strong leadership of Governor Cuomo and others is buying us vital time, but the question is what is our federal government doing with the time that the sacrifices of so many Americans are buying them?” he wrote. 

“If we fail to universally test, we face an indefinite amount of time in social distancing, only to see new cases of the virus arise when we ultimately return to normal life.”

Patel is running in the Democratic primary against longtime Rep. Carolyn Maloney. 

Texas Republicans back Lt. Governor on controversial coronavirus comments

HOUSTON — Republican leaders in Texas are defending Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s controversial comments on coronavirus as illustrative of his love of country, even as others see those comments as reckless amid a national crisis. 

Patrick, a Republican and popular former conservative radio host, drew headlines last week when he said he supported President Trump’s call to restart the U.S. economy as quickly as possible despite the ongoing spread of the virus.

The virus has proven most deadly to older people and those with underlying conditions, which means many of those being treated or hospitalized are elderly. Texas has almost 3,000 cases of Covid-19, the illness produced by the coronavirus, according to NBC News. Some 47 people have died.

Emphasizing the need to “get back to work,” Patrick told Fox News host Tucker Carlson, “those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.”

Patrick, who turns 70 this week, added, “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks in McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019.Sergio Flores / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Patrick’s comments sparked backlash online, spurring hashtags including, #NotDyingforWallStreet and #TexasDeservesBetter. But in Texas, prominent Republicans said Patrick has a point.

“He’s really telling a story which is, you know, he wants to make sure there’s an American economy for people to come home to,” Houston area state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, 61, told NBC News. “That’s a big worry. The virus is a big worry, but then the next worry is, ‘do I have a job.’”

McKinney-area state Sen. Angela Paxton, 57, told NBC News: “We want to protect people and keep them healthy. Everyone is going to agree on that. How do we do it, that’s where there’s differences.”

She added, “But I think on the other hand, there’s no one that is going to say, it doesn’t matter if we destroy our economy.”

The mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price, a 70-year old grandmother of six, said that while the economy is a concern so is respect for the value of life. 

“My children and my grandchildren are certainly not ready for their Tootsie to go anywhere or to put myself at risk,” Price said.

“I don’t know what talent he would sacrifice? Is it young talent? Is it the experience in seniors? Or where is it?“ Price said. “I just can’t quite get a handle around that.”

Other Texas GOP leaders suggested Patrick had been talking about a sacrifice he would be willing to make — not asking the rest of the country to do so.

“He was talking about himself,” Denton-area state Sen. Pat Fallon, 52, said. “He perfectly has every right to say, ‘I love this country so much that I would sacrifice, if I had to, my own well-being, to ensure the prosperity and opportunity that I had that my kids and grandkids could have.’ And I think it’s very noble.”

Not everyone is convinced, particularly Republicans who have been critical of Trump’s pull on their party. 

“He’s a public official, he knows what he says has policy implications and it’s absurd to think that he just meant himself,” said Rick Tyler, a former aide to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and MSNBC political analyst who has frequently criticized President Trump. 

John Weaver, a Texan and longtime Republican political strategist who has since founded a group that’s aimed at defeating Trump in November, argues Patrick wouldn’t actually be among the most vulnerable if restrictions were lifted. Texans who live along the US-Mexico border or lack access to adequate care, Weaver said, would be the ones who suffer.

“He’s talking about those people in the valley, who don’t have health insurance because they blocked the expansion of healthcare in this state. He’s talking about people in parts of Houston where, because of density and lack of healthcare, they’re more at risk.” Weaver said. “He’s not talking about himself.”

“There’s no real public policy out there where people are going to say, ‘Fine, we’ll get the economy moving again at the expense of 2 percent of the population,’” Weaver added.

In a statement released the day after the Fox News interview, Patrick seemed to reframe his message away from senior citizens potentially sacrificing their lives.

“When you close the doors of every business in America, you cannot help but destroy the economy and with it, the opportunity for the next generation to live the American dream,” the statement said.

Here’s what the Democratic presidential primary schedule looks like in the age of coronavirus

WASHINGTON — States continue to postpone Democratic presidential caucuses and primaries as the threat of coronavirus looms large and White House social distancing guidelines remain in place for another month. 

All presidential contests before March 17 were held as scheduled but the list of states that have altered voting plans due to the novel coronavirus is extensive.

A voter casts their ballot at a polling station in Hillsboro, Va., on March 3, 2020.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Here’s the modified schedule so far listed by original contest date.

March 17

Arizona primary (held)

Florida primary (held)

Illinois primary (held)

Ohio primary: now set to be an all-mail election on April 28

March 24

Georgia primary: postponed to May 19

March 29

Puerto Rico primary: postponed to April 26 at the earliest.

April 4

Alaska Democratic Party-Run primary: in-person voting plans scrapped in favor of all-mail voting with the deadline on April 10

Hawaii Democratic Party-Run primary: in-person voting plans scrapped in favor of all-mail voting with a deadline of May 22

Louisiana primary: postponed to June 20

Wyoming Caucuses: in-person caucuses suspended in favor of mail. The deadline is April 17

April 7

Wisconsin primary

April 28

Connecticut primary: postponed to June 2.

Delaware primary: postponed to June 2.

Maryland primary: postponed  to June 2.

New York primary: postponed to June 23.

Pennsylvania primary: postponed to June 2.

Rhode Island primary: postponed to June 2, will be “primarily” by mail.

Saturday, May 2

Kansas Party-Run primary (DNC considers this a caucus)

Guam caucuses

Tuesday, May 5

Indiana primary: postponed to June 2.

Tuesday, May 12

Nebraska primary

West Virginia primary

Tuesday, May 19

Kentucky primary: postponed to June 23.

Oregon primary

Tuesday, June 2

Montana primary

New Jersey primary

New Mexico primary

South Dakota primary

Washington, D.C. primary

Saturday, June 6

Virgin Island caucuses

New Biden digital ad argues Trump’s ‘ego will cost lives’ to coronavirus

WASHINGTON – The Biden campaign is issuing a cautious warning about President Donald Trump’s leadership in a new video, saying that his “ego will cost lives” in the fight against coronavirus. 

In a digital video posted to Twitter and Facebook Saturday evening, the campaign uses Trump’s own words during a White House press briefing, where he admitted to telling Vice President Mike Pence not to call Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, two Democrats, because he is “wasting” his time speaking with them.

“You don’t want to call the governor of Washington? You know what I say? If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” the video shows Trump saying.

In response, the campaign posts text on the screen over horror-movie like music that say, “His failure will cost lives. His downplaying will cost lives. His incompetence will cost lives. His ego will cost lives.”

The digital video, which is currently not a paid ad, already has about 5 million views on Twitter and thousands of engagements on Facebook and Instagram.

Biden has spent the past week criticizing Trump for his slow response to preventing the spread of the COVID-19, often pointing to numerous examples of Trump downplaying the seriousness of it earlier this year. The claims in the video are the furthest the campaign has gone in sharply pointing out how Trump’s continued approach to leading the effort could lead to American deaths.

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, Biden’s criticisms of the president were not as aggressive as his campaign’s.

While his campaign has repeatedly warned that Trump’s reaction to the crisis could cost American lives, Biden says he thinks it would be “too harsh” to say Trump has blood on his hands.

“He should stop thinking out loud and start thinking deeply. He should start listening to the scientists before he speaks. He should listen to the health experts. He should listen to his economists,” Biden said.

Whitmer also deflected Trump’s direct attacks against her in a “Meet the Press” interview.

“I’ve talked to the vice president a number of times. We’re working with everyone from the White House on down through FEMA, DHS, the Army Corps of Engineers because it’s got to be all hands on deck. We are not one another’s enemies. The enemy is the virus,” she said on Meet the Press.

Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in latest national poll

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by nine points in the latest Fox News general election poll. The poll, released Saturday, shows Biden garnering 49 percent support of registered voters, and Trump at 40 percent — pushing Biden outside the poll’s three-point margin of error. 

The subsection groups show even stronger support for Biden. Suburban women, a key group in the 2018 midterms, support Biden over Trump by a 57-34 point margin. Biden also won self-described “moderates” with 53 percent support — Trump garnered just 24 percent support from the same group. 

Joe Biden addresses supporters at his South Carolina primary night rally in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Elizabeth Frantz / Reuters file

The Fox News poll shows overall stability of Biden’s support. In their February poll, Biden led Trump 49-41 percent, and in January he led 50-41 in the same poll. However, this is the first Fox News poll to also measure support of potential general election tickets. 

Biden announced at the last Democratic presidential debate that he would choose a woman as his running mate. Registered voters seem to agree with that decision — in this poll, 63 percent of registered voters approve of that choice. And of three potential female senators Biden could pick, each ticket leads the Republican Trump-Pence ticket. 

Fox News polled Biden with California Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — all former presidential candidates in this cycle. Harris and Klobuchar have since endorsed Biden, while Warren has yet to endorse either Biden or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

According to this poll, a Biden-Harris ticket and a Biden-Klobuchar ticket beat Trump-Pence with a 50 to 42 percent margin. A potential Biden-Warren ticket had a larger margin of victory at 52-42 percent support. All three ticket victories were outside of the poll’s margin for error. 

The Fox News poll was conducted between March 21 and 24. 

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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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