Barack and Michelle Obama’s personal statements deceive prospective donors
Despite at least one (and possibly more) complaints from Minnesota law enforcement agencies, the Obama campaign is still circulating E-mails that solicit donations in exchange to win an expenses-paid trip to the Democratic National Convention. Were it not for the very fine print disclaimers in the E-mails and on the donation page itself, this would very likely constitute an illegal lottery. In other words, the Obama campaign is doing the absolute minimum it thinks it needs to do to stay out of actual trouble with the law. In addition, a video by Barack Obama and an E-mail from Michelle Obama are designed to deceive supporters into thinking that they have to contribute money for a chance to win.
As reported by WorldNet Daily, the Obama campaign faced the prospect of legal trouble in Minnesota and possibly other states for running an arguably illegal lottery: donate money to Obama’s campaign (payment of consideration) in exchange for a chance (element of chance) to win an expenses-paid trip to the Democratic National Convention (prize).
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.
In other words, the Obama campaign acknowledged that it had been told about the illegality of lotteries in Minnesota, and the Obama campaign’s staff counsel agreed to change the lottery to comply with the law. The campaign followed up by making only the perfunctory and minimal changes that were necessary to keep it out of actual trouble with the law, while continuing to suggest that one does indeed have to make a donation to participate.
The donation page itself says, “Watch the video and make a donation.” In the video, Barack Obama himself participates in the campaign’s deception of prospective donors by saying that you have to donate money to have a chance of winning the prize. The text at the top says,
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 huge event at the open-air stadium on the final night.
Ten supporters from all over the country will be selected to go Backstage with Barack.
Only well down the page, and below the place where you give a donation, does it say “If you do not wish to make a donation but would like to participate in this program, you can still be selected to join Barack at the Democratic National Convention in Denver by clicking here.” In other words, the page seems designed to trick people into donating money before they discover that they can enter the lottery without making a contribution. This reflects squarely on the ethics of the Obama campaign and on Barack and Michelle Obama themselves, noting that both added personal statements whose apparent intention is to deceive prospective donors.
In this E-mail, Michelle Obama says personally that one must contribute $5 or more for a chance to win a trip to the convention; in other words, the woman who wants to be First Lady is touting something that, were it not for the fine print disclaimer further down, could easily be an illegal lottery. In fact, were her words allowed to stand by themselves, without the disclaimer the campaign added, that is exactly what she would be doing.
Barack likes to tell a story about the two of us standing backstage before his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention.
The way he tells it, he was too busy in the days before the convention to feel any pressure — but about an hour before the speech, I could tell he was getting a little nervous.
To break the tension, right before he went out on stage I leaned in close and said, “Just don’t screw it up, buddy.”
We laughed. And then Barack brought the house down.
This year, the house is going to be a lot bigger. More than 75,000 people will be in Denver to be part of this important moment, and I want to tell you about an opportunity to join Barack backstage before his acceptance speech.
Ten supporters who make a donation in any amount by midnight this Thursday, July 31st, will be selected to fly to Denver, spend a couple of nights in a hotel, participate in the convention, and go Backstage with Barack. Each supporter who is selected will also get to bring a guest along to share the experience.
Make a contribution of $5 or more today and you could have your own Backstage with Barack story to tell:
Barack’s speech at the convention will be a culmination of the unlikely journey that has brought all of us so far over the past 17 months.
He will call on us to come together and work for change — not just to win this election, but to make things better for all Americans.
Seeing it in person will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m excited about being there, and if you make a donation of $5 or more before the deadline, you could join Barack backstage:
Thanks for everything you’ve done to get us here.
[The donation button appears here]
[Fine print below the donation button] If you do not wish to make a donation, you can still be selected to join Barack at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Learn more here.
Note the three elements of an illegal lottery in “Ten supporters who make a donation in any amount by midnight this Thursday, July 31st, will be selected to fly to Denver, spend a couple of nights in a hotel, participate in the convention, and go Backstage with Barack.”
(1) Payment of consideration–a donation in any amount
(2) Element of chance
(3) A prize
Were it not for the fine print disclaimer at the bottom of the page, Michelle Obama would have signed her name to a solicitation for a lottery that is, per Minnesota law enforcement, illegal in that state. It could well be illegal in other states as well.
This is not the only such E-mail we received well after Minnesota law enforcement told the Obama campaign very explicitly that it could not run a lottery in that state. This one is signed by Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe.
Barack recorded a special video invitation for you to join him at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Watch it now and make a donation of $5 or more before midnight this Thursday, July 31st, and you could go backstage with Barack:
Exactly one month from today, on the last night of the Democratic National Convention, more than 75,000 people will come together in the largest stadium in Denver to be part of history.
Barack is opening up the convention and his acceptance speech to as many people as possible. Supporters like you are responsible for building this movement and for bringing this campaign so far — and Barack wants you to be part of this important moment.
Free tickets will be available soon, but if you make a donation in any amount this month, you could be one of 10 supporters selected to meet Barack backstage before he delivers his speech.
If you make a donation by midnight this Thursday, July 31st, you and a guest could be flown to Denver, spend a couple of nights in a hotel, participate in the convention, and then go backstage with Barack before the big event.
Watch this short video and make a donation of $5 or more today to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity:
The Democratic National Convention is going to be an exciting and important event for this movement and for our country. I hope you will be there to join us.
Obama for America
[Fine print] If you do not wish to make a donation, you can still be selected to join Barack at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Learn more here.
In summary, Barack and Michelle Obama, along with campaign manager David Plouffe, all signed their names or made public statements on video that, were it not for the minimal and perfunctory disclaimer that the campaign added because of explicit complaints from a law enforcement agency, could easily constitute solicitations for an illegal lottery. Is someone who does the absolute minimum necessary to stay out of actual trouble with the law the kind of individual we want in any position of public trust or responsibility?