Is the Democratic Party running an Illegal Fundraising Lottery for Obama?

We reported previously that the Obama campaign was told explicitly by Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety that it was illegal to run a lottery in that state (e.g. “Dinner with Barack,” “Backstage with Barack”). The elements of a lottery consist of:

  1. Payment of consideration (money)
  2. An element of chance
  3. A prize (dinner with Barack Obama, or an expenses-paid trip to the Democratic National Convention).

The Obama campaign made the minimum necessary perfunctory change necessary to keep it out of actual trouble with the law. The change consisted of a fine print disclaimer to the effect that you could enter the drawing without making a donation, and this also appeared on the donation page itself. Today, however, we received a solicitation that was signed by Howard Dean that does NOT link to a page that has a means of entering without paying money.

From: Howard Dean
Subject: Your backstage pass to the convention
To: [name deleted]
Date: Wednesday, July 30, 2008, 5:53 PM

Dear [name deleted]

When Barack Obama delivered his breakout speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, the energy in the hall was amazing. He made thousands of people, including me, feel extremely proud to be Democrats.

This year is going to be even better.

On the last night of the convention — when Barack accepts the Democratic nomination — more than 75,000 people will fill the biggest stadium in Denver to be a part of the moment.

We’re opening up the convention to as many people as possible, and I hope you’ll be there to join me.

If you make a donation before midnight tomorrow, you could be part of a very special opportunity. Ten supporters who give before the July fundraising deadline will be selected for an all-expenses-paid trip to Denver. You’ll get to bring a guest, fly to Denver, spend a couple days at the convention, and meet Barack before his speech.

Donate $5 or more today, and you could go Backstage with Barack:

This would be a very different message if you were a Republican.

For one, you wouldn’t be invited to the convention — unless you were a rich fat cat or very well connected. Also, this message would be filled with false, negative attacks targeting Barack and other Democrats.

That’s not how politics should work. You are what makes this party work, and you deserve the facts, not smears.

Here’s a simple fact: John McCain and the Republican National Committee finished June with $100 million in the bank. And that’s not counting the untold millions collected by shadowy outside groups preparing their next Swift Boat.

Here’s another fact: Tomorrow at midnight is the fundraising deadline for July. The media and political pundits will once again be sizing up the DNC to see if we can compete with John McCain and the RNC.

We need to close the fundraising gap — and, unlike our opponents, we do not accept money from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACs. Instead, we rely on ordinary people like you giving only what you can afford.

Let’s show the strength of our Party and this movement for change. Make a donation of $5 or more to support our 50-state organizing strategy before tomorrow’s deadline, and you could join Barack backstage at the open convention in Denver:

With your support, we can do more than just win elections up and down the ballot in November. We can change politics and make this country better for all Americans.

Thank you,

Howard Dean


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.

Paid for and authorized by the Democratic National Committee,
This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Democratic National Committee, 430 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington, DC 20003Contributions or gifts to the Democratic National Committee are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.

Note the disclaimer “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.” If you click on the link, you are taken to a page that does NOT show how you can enter the drawing without donating money. The same goes for

The page to which these links redirect the viewer IS owned by Barack Obama’s campaign, which promised Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety that it would provide a means of entering the drawing without payment of consideration. It’s possible that the left hand ( doesn’t know what the right hand ( is doing and vice versa, but even this is hardly complimentary to either Obama’s campaign or the Democratic Party as a whole.

Nowhere on this page (screenshot below) can we find any means of entering the drawing for an expenses-paid trip to the Democratic National Convention without making a donation–even though the Obama campaign made a very explicit promise to Minnesota law enforcement that future solicitations of this nature would do this.

Additional content (“Paid For by Obama for America”) is visible in Firefox; the above screenshot is from Netscape Communicator. Even so, there is still no way to enter the drawing from this page without making a donation.

Disclaimer: the page above also attempts to access, which is banned from our computer. Unless this somehow offers a means of entering without making a donation, we can reach only one possible conclusion:

Breaking their promises–whether to the United Church of Christ when he got it into trouble with the IRS by giving a campaign-related speech at its annual synod in June 2007, the American people when he opted out of the Federal funding system for elections (and corresponding spending limits), and now to Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety–is what Barack Obama and his people do.


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