Exclusive: Bono’s Anti-Poverty Effort Turns to 2016 Presidential Race

3 minute read

Correction appended, Dec. 14

The bipartisan global poverty advocacy group founded by U2’s Bono plans to announce a strategy Tuesday to force the candidates running for President to pledge their support for the U.S. foreign aid budget.

Through private meetings and appearances at campaign events in early voting states, ONE will focus their efforts on asking candidates what they would do to the roughly 1% of the federal budget that goes to other countries for public health, economic development and humanitarian crises. TIME obtained its announcement of ONE Vote ‘16 a day ahead of its release.

“This election could determine whether the world will eliminate extreme poverty and stop the spread of preventable diseases like HIV/ AIDS,” campaign director Abby Sasser said in a statement from the group, which claims 2 million supporters in the United States. “Under Republican and Democratic presidents, the United States has made contributions to the fight against extreme poverty that should make Americans proud. The next President and the next Congress will take office with the U.S. in a position to implement uniquely innovative, effective and affordable solutions that will save lives and make our country more secure. It’s up to each of us to raise our voices and show candidates that these issues matter to us.”

The campaign comes as foreign policy has become a central issue in the race for the two parties’ nominations. The threat of ISIS and crisis in Syria, economic challenges across the globe and the specific terror attacks in Paris and California have already reshaped the discussion about what knowledge and skills the next President will need. It also comes as voters consistently over-estimate how much of their tax money goes abroad.

Bono’s group has long held an interest in promoting global development—building roads and electric grids—but also fostering institutions that provide social services and protect the rights of women and minorities. The group also has been a leader in promoting plans aimed at eradicating public health risks, such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.

During the 2008 campaign, ONE volunteers targeted White House contenders in Iowa and New Hampshire. They were so ubiquitous that Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the eventual GOP nominee, often started his town hall-style meetings in New Hampshire by asking who the ONE representative was, and then calling on him on her.

This year, the group already has staffers on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina—the first three major states in the nominating calendar. “We have done this successfully the last four cycles, so we know it works, and are optimistic about the results again this time,” said Tom Hart, ONE’s executive director for North America.

ONE’s President and CEO is Michael Elliott, the former editor of TIME International.

Correction: The original article misstated the number of supporters claimed by the ONE campaign. It is 2 million in the United States.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Philip Elliott at philip.elliott@time.com