This Californian wants to help workers save on taxes - and maybe be the next president

California entrepreneur and activist Joe Sanberg has spent years raising awareness in his home state about a tax credit that helps lift people out of poverty — but which many people don’t know they’re eligible for.

Sanberg is now seeking to do the same in two pivotal 2020 primary states — Iowa and South Carolina — establishing chapters of his non-profit organization in both states in January, with the aim of raising awareness about the Earned Income Tax Credit.

On Friday, Sanberg’s group, Working Hero Action, is launching a six-figure ad buy to inform people about the credit and what they need to do to qualify ahead of the Monday’s tax filing deadline.

“One in five eligible taxpayers leave money on the table, just because they don’t know how to claim the credit,” a narrator says in the South Carolina ad. It directs viewers to the group’s web site,, for more information. At the end of the ad, a picture of Sanberg pops up on the screen.

The ads will air on broadcast television across major markets in both states, a spokeswoman for the group told McClatchy.

By focusing on Iowa and South Carolina, Sanberg is aiming “to reach hundreds of thousands more people, while at the same time elevating the issue of poverty in the 2020 presidential race,” said Rebecca Katz, an adviser to Sanberg.

The outreach in two of the first primary states on the 2020 calendar could also buoy Sanberg’s profile as a possible dark horse presidential candidate.

The Orange County native reportedly mulled both a Senate and gubernatorial run in 2018, but ultimately opted to not to mount a campaign. However, he told The Atlantic last month that he was, indeed, considering a presidential bid. He said he’d make a final decision after April 15 — tax day.

In the meantime, he’s been touring both Iowa and South Carolina, holding events with Democratic presidential candidates Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, John Delaney, and Marianne Williamson to discuss tax policy and ways to reduce poverty and economic inequality. Working Hero also has town halls scheduled with Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang in the next three weeks.

Harris and Booker are among the Democrats who have embraced the Earned Income Tax Credit as a tool for fighting poverty. Harris, California’s junior senator, advocates an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit as part of the tax overhaul she unveiled last fall.

Sanberg made millions as a Wall Street investor, including as a founding investor of the meal delivery service Blue Apron. In 2015, he helped lobby for the creation of California’s Earned Income Tax Credit. The Public Policy Institute of California estimates that without both the federal and state credits, 840,000 more Californians would be in poverty. Sanberg has continued to campaign for expanding the tax credit, something California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed doing earlier this year.

A Sanberg presidential campaign would face long odds in what is likely to be a historically crowded field of Democrats. But if he does decide to run, he will already have the beginnings of a platform to campaign on.

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Emily Cadei works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, where she covers national politics and policy for McClatchy’s California readers. A native of Sacramento, she has spent more than a decade in D.C. reporting on U.S. elections, Congress and foreign affairs for publications including Newsweek, Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call.