The most recent E-mail we received from the Obama campaign seems to contain the three elements that constitute a lottery. (Not legal advice, we are not attorneys.)
- Payment of consideration (a donation of any size to the Obama campaign, with $25.00 being recommended)
- An element of chance (lucky winners will be picked to meet with Obama in person)
- A prize (a personal meeting with Barack Obama)
WorldNetDaily reports, in fact, that the Obama campaign previously modified its donation Web page to remove the need to send any money because of exactly this issue but today, July 16, it again asked for money in exchange for a chance to meet with Barack Obama. Only well down on the donation page itself (NOT in the E-mail solicitation) does it say you can enter the drawing without making a donation. It seems to us that the Obama campaign did the absolute minimum it thought necessary to avoid the promotion of an allegedly illegal lottery, while continuing to send E-mails that ask for donations (consideration) in exchange for a chance (element of luck) to go to Colorado and meet Barack Obama (prize).
Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2008 09:56:55 -0400From: "Steve Hildebrand, BarackObama.com" <email@example.com>Subject: Backstage with Barack?
I’m out here in Denver,
Colorado visiting the site of the Democratic National Convention, and
there is excitement in the mountain air.
Folks are working hard on Barack’s plan for a truly open convention. It will be a historic event, and you can be a part of it.
If you make a donation in any amount before midnight on July 31st, you could be selected to travel to Denver for the last two days of the convention, including the final event — Barack’s acceptance of the Democratic nomination for President before 75,000 people.
Ten supporters will be selected from all over the country, and each will be able to bring one guest. We’ll provide airfare, accommodations, and two days of convention activities — including a private meeting with Barack before his historic speech.
Our team shot a short video of the stadium to give you a sense of the event. Watch the video and make a donation of $25 today, and you could go Backstage with Barack:
Supporters like you are the reason this campaign has been possible. We are thrilled that some of you will be able to celebrate what you accomplished with us in Denver.
But we have a long way to go, and Barack can’t do this without you.
Note that this solicitation contains what look like (again, not legal advice) the three elements of a lottery:
- Payment of consideration: “If you make a donation in any amount before midnight on July 31st”
- An element of chance: Ten supporters will be selected from all over the country
- A prize: We’ll provide airfare, accommodations, and two days of convention activities — including a private meeting with Barack before his historic speech.
The following piece, which is from a lawyer–California’s Attorney General–says that a retail promotion in which people who buy a product receive a chance to win a prize–is illegal in California.
“A lottery is any scheme for the disposal or distribution of property by chance, among persons who have paid or promised to pay any valuable consideration for the chance of obtaining such property or a portion of it, or for any share or any interest in such property, upon any agreement, understanding, or expectation that it is to be distributed or disposed of by lot or chance, whether called a lottery, raffle, or gift enterprise, or by whatever name the same may be known.”
A lottery thus has three essential elements: (1) a prize, (2) distributed by chance and (3) the payment of valuable consideration.
As reported by WorldNetDaily, this exact issue came up last week, and the Obama campaign modified its approach–at least for a few days.
Posted: July 09, 2008
11:32 am Eastern
© 2008 WorldNetDaily
…Doug Forsman, a special agent with Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety, had confirmed the illegality of the promotion.
He gave the campaign two options, the newspaper said, to void the contest where such bans exist or to change the rules to allow people to participate without gambling any of their money.
Forsman confirmed Kendall Burman, staff counsel at Obama’s Chicago headquarters, informed him the “donation,” which had been a requirement earlier, would be made optional.
This was on July 9. Today, July 16, we received the previously cited solicitation from the Obama campaign, which again asks for a donation “of any size” in exchange for a chance to meet with Barack Obama. The statement “Now the campaign has added a statement to the fundraising website that says, “If you do not wish to make a donation but would like to participate in this program, you can still be selected to join at the Democratic National Convention in Denver by clicking here” is indeed true, but this does NOT appear in the E-mail solicitation. Our perspective is therefore that the Obama campaign made the minimal possible changes (i.e. cosmetic only, as opposed to a good faith effort) it thought it had to make to avoid promoting a potentially illegal lottery.