By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – The coronavirus pandemic is having a major impact on politics in a presidential election year. Political analyst Jon Keller answered some of your questions sent to WBZ-TV’s FacebookInstagram and Twitter accounts.

Why did the Treasury Department spend our tax dollars to send millions of letters from President Trump telling people what they already knew, that they’re getting stimulus money? – Maureen on Facebook

Because the CARES Act requires it. Or at least it requires that “notice” of stimulus payments being issued be sent to taxpayers. The president’s signature and the letter’s rhetoric about how the administration is “fully committed to ensuring that you and your family have the support you need” are politically-motivated embellishments, but hardly unusual ones. They are the equivalent of pols adding their names to highway signs.

Did the Kennedy Center contribute money to the Democratic National Committee from the stimulus money they got?   David on Facebook

No, that is a lie spread online by a right-wing “content creator.” The Kennedy Center did, with bi-partisan support including public endorsement by President Trump, receive $25 million from the stimulus package to “prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus,” But as a 501(c)(3) non-profit, the Center is prohibited from donating money to politicians or political groups. By the way, a companion social-media claim, that one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s daughters works for the Kennedy Center and stands to benefit from the funds, is also false.

How will the pandemic affect the political campaigns this summer and fall? – Phil on Facebook

Talk about your million-dollar questions. Even though the two major parties have yet to officially rule out the rallies and crowded national conventions the coming months would typically feature, it sure looks like there’s no way those can happen. And at the local level, campaign staples like door-knocking, house parties and visits to senior centers would all seem to be out of the question.

Candidates from Joe Biden to Joe Kennedy and Ed Markey have tried to fill the void with webcasts and online chats. I suspect you’ll see a continuation of a trend that at times seemed to dominate the Democratic presidential race over the past year, so-called “town hall” events on cable TV, with perhaps a handful of socially-distant participants in the hall and questions from viewers via Zoom or other venues.

And TV debates, always important events for voters, will be even more crucial this year at all levels. By the way, you’ll see Kennedy and Markey square off in the WBZ-TV studios at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, August 11, a debate moderated by yours truly.

Jon Keller

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