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    Obama’s “Raffle”

    Obama’s “Raffle”

    I have referred to Obama’s $5 dinner promotion as a “raffle.”   I am not alone, as virtually every major news organization has used the same terminology.

    Under any common understanding, it is a raffle, you pay money for a chance to win.  Payment of money is not required if one reads the fine print, but the large print and donation buttons seemed designed to create the impression that money is required.

    I think it is cheesy and tawdry, but I have not claimed it is illegal. 

    Under various laws, a “raffle” has a legal definition which would require registration or some other form of legal compliance.  Reader and commenter Alex Wingate e-mails me as follows, complaining that I used the word “raffle” rather than “sweepstake”:

    Dear Prof. Jacobson,

    After recalling that some time ago I had signed up to receive Obama emails which I have sense relegated to the spam folder, I decided to dig them up and see if they really did fail to include the required disclosures to ensure that the dinner offer was a sweepstakes under state and federal law.  When I opened one up, sure enough the disclosure was there; no purchase, payment or contribution necessary… It would seem in the interest of full disclosure for yourself, you ought to correct this, as you have been (I would assume inadvertently) misleading the readers into believing this to be a raffle, which under state and federal law it is not  There are plenty of legitimate reasons to criticize Obama, why waste time and credibility on the illegitimate ones?

    -Alex Wingate

    P.S. I have included a screen caption of the relevant portion of the email.

    I guess the out is that you can enter without paying, but I wonder how many people do that and how many are misled into thinking it costs $5 or $3 to enter?  This is the Publishers’ Sweepstakes problem, and now our President has been reduced to hawking dinner like Ed McMahon hawked magazines.

    So I think it fits the common understanding of “raffle,” but maybe not the legal definition (I haven’t checked all 50 states).  Perhaps “sweepstakes” would have been a better term, but what substantive difference would that make to my posts since I’ve never claimed Obama failed to comply with state raffle laws?

    We really are arguing over what the meaning of “is” is.

    Here is the screen shot sent to me by Alex, with no redaction, so you can judge for yourself whether there is prominent disclosure that one does not have to pay to enter (click to enlarge):


    Donations tax deductible
    to the full extent allowed by law.


    Carol Herman | July 1, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    I wouldn’t give you two cents for this raffle ticket!

    Wow, we’ve come a long distance away from JFK’s Camelot. Let me tell ya.

    Ya know, the way things look now, even if the GOP runs “The Horse’s Ass” … the ass will pull forward and win.

    I thought it was a “rifle”. I was going to send in my $5. Who would want to share a meal with this guy anyway?

    janitor | July 2, 2011 at 2:43 am

    Hmmm… Here’s Florida. Caveat, the following was not seriously researched. (I kind of like the nuisance possibilities):

    Contest in which participants had only to mail their address to become eligible to win illegal because a list of possible customers could be made from the addresses mailed in. 60 Fla. Op. Atty Gen. 60-117. The only consideration needed is that sufficient for a simple contract. Blackburn v. Ippolito, 156 So.2d 550, 554 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App.1963)”…

    “Fla. Stat. §849.09, unlawful to promote or conduct a lottery for money or anything of value. §849.0935, 849.09 “shall not be construed to prohibit an organization qualified under 26 U.S.C. s. 501(c)(3), (4), (7), (8), (10), or (19), from conducting drawings by chance pursuant to the authority granted by this section, provided the organization has complied with all applicable provisions of chapter 496… unlawful for any organization that is authorized… to require an entry fee, donation, substantial consideration, payment, proof of purchase, or contribution…” 97 Fla. Op. Atty Gen. 97-54…

    Illegal to play or engage in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance for money or other thing of value; Fla. Stat. §849.08…

    Illegal to set up, promote, or conduct any lottery for money or for anything of value, Fla. Stat. §849.09…

    Gambling may be enjoined as nuisance, Fla. Stat. §60.05-06. Anything that annoys the public, or is harmful to public health and morals is a nuisance… Lee v. City of Miami, 163 So. 486, 489 (Fla. 1935)…

    Unlawful to sell lottery tickets to minors. Fla. Stat. §24.116, §24.117…

    Third degree felony to commit common law “gross fraud of cheat”. Fla. Stat. §817.29…

    Illegal to give buyer a rebate or discount in return for providing names of other potential buyers to seller if the discount or rebate is contingent on some future event, Fla. Stat. §849.0915…

    Illegal to print lottery tickets or advertise for illegal lottery, Fla. Stat. §849.10; illegal to set up, promote or play at any game of chance by lot or with dice,cards, numbers, hazards or any other gambling device whatever for anything of value. Fla. Stat. §849.11; all illegal lottery receipts are forfeited, Fla. Stat. §849.12…

    Florida Statutes are at

    beloved2 | July 2, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Not illegal, professor?
    Laws are for the little people, not President Obama
    Jeannie DeAngelis

    The following description of Title 18, subsection 607 U.S.C. is so straightforward even a layperson could understand.

    It shall be unlawful for an individual who is an officer or employee of the Federal Government, including the President, Vice President, and Members of Congress, to solicit or receive a donation of money or other thing of value in connection with a Federal, State, or local election, while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties…

    In other words, the law says Barack Obama should not solicit reelection money or donations while in any room or building where official duties are carried out – such as hawking a wheel of raffle tickets on White House premises as if it were a church dance sweepstakes for a cheap door prize…

    According to election law experts, in flagrant disregard for federal law President Obama filmed a fundraising video offering dinner with himself and Vice President Biden as the grand prize for having a $5 raffle ticket plucked out of a giant spinning drum…

    What’s next, a car wash on the South Lawn? How about $100 for 10-minute spin on Marine One? And why stop there? A White House yard sale featuring Michelle’s old clothes could raise enough gas money to fill up the “Hope and Change 2012” campaign bus for its entire tour…

    Regardless of how the White House parses and spins, according to legal election law experts, “If the video was filmed in the Map Room, as it appears to be, then there is no question it violates the law.”

    Experts contend that by soliciting funds in the White House to finance a bid for reelection, the President is definitely bending if not outright breaking the federal law. Cleta Mitchell, member of the American Bar Association’s election law committee, spoke more plainly when addressing the fact that Barack Obama filmed his $5 “Come On-A My House” ad in the White House — she said his doing so is a blatant “criminal offense.”…

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