Did Barack Obama Just Break the Law? Fundraising Lottery Could be Illegal.

Unauthorized lotteries are illegal in most jurisdictions, and it is illegal to promote them through the U.S. Mail.

The Obama campaign has already been warned by law enforcement officials against running “Backstage with Barack” and “Dinner with Barack” lotteries in Minnesota and possibly Colorado. Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety counseled Obama for America to provide a means of entering to win a chance to meet Barack Obama without making a donation, which would remove the “payment of consideration” element that makes the scheme an illegal lottery. The Obama campaign agreed to do so, but it broke this promise to Minnesota’s law enforcement agencies as of October 31 2008.

We are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice, but Missouri’s definition of illegal gambling is typical of that in most states. Bracketed material relates these definitions to the latest E-mail from the Obama campaign, “Will You Join Me on Election Night?” Note also that Barack Obama, an attorney, signed his name to the solicitation that appears below.

    Three elements make up an illegal promotion:

    1. Prize is any benefit, cash or property awarded to a winner. [“If you’re selected, you can bring a guest, and we’ll fly you in and put you up in a hotel for the night. You’ll go backstage at the big event and — no matter what happens — you’ll have a front row seat to history as we celebrate the supporters who got us over the finish line.”]
    2. Chance means the winner is chosen by “luck” with little or no skill or ability involved. [“We’re saving some of the best seats in the house for 5 people who make their first donation to the campaign before Sunday at midnight. If you’re selected…”]
    3. Consideration is the exchange of something of value for the opportunity to participate in the game. [“Any donation counts — whatever you can afford. Show your support at this crucial time with a donation of $5 or more, and you could join me on Election Night”]


In addition, if the same solicitation was sent by U.S. Mail, it might be a violation of Federal law.
It is illegal to promote lotteries by U.S. Mail.

    TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 61 > § 1302
    § 1302. Mailing lottery tickets or related matter
    Whoever knowingly deposits in the mail, or sends or delivers by mail:
    Any letter, package, postal card, or circular concerning any lottery, gift enterprise, or similar scheme offering prizes dependent in whole or in part upon lot or chance;

    Any newspaper, circular, pamphlet, or publication of any kind containing any advertisement of any lottery, gift enterprise, or scheme of any kind offering prizes dependent in whole or in part upon lot or chance, or containing any list of the prizes drawn or awarded by means of any such lottery, gift enterprise, or scheme, whether said list contains any part or all of such prizes;
    Any article described in section 1953 of this title—
    Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both; and for any subsequent offense shall be imprisoned not more than five years.

Exceptions to this law include State lotteries, and lotteries by non-profit and governmental organizations (of which the Obama campaign is neither). In other words, if you received the following “Will You Join Me on Election Night” letter by postal mail, it could potentially violate Federal law, and we would welcome feedback from any attorneys who are familiar with lottery and gambling laws.

    From – Fri Oct 31 17:52:56 2008
    X-UIDL: 6246-1200724588
    X-Mozilla-Status: 1001
    X-Mozilla-Status2: 00000000
    Received: from mta-inap8.bluestatedigital.com ([69.25.74.166])
    by vms172051.mailsrvcs.net
    (Sun Java System Messaging Server 6.2-6.01 (built Apr 3 2006))
    with ESMTP id <0K9M00GIPFLHSF42@vms172051.mailsrvcs.net> for
    [our E-mail address]; Fri, 31 Oct 2008 15:58:29 -0500 (CDT)
    Received: by mta-inap8.bluestatedigital.com (Postfix, from userid 501)
    id 0C448BE3E660B; Fri, 31 Oct 2008 16:21:22 -0400 (EDT)
    Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2008 16:21:22 -0400
    From: Barack Obama
    Subject: Will you join me on Election Night?
    X-Originating-IP: [69.25.74.166]
    To: [our E-mail address]
    Reply-to: info@barackobama.com
    Message-id: <23f32d9e4a53b926864e42db8f4d426f@localhost.localdomain>
    MIME-version: 1.0
    X-Mailer: PHPMailer [version 1.72-blue_mailer]
    Content-type: multipart/alternative;
    boundary=b1_23f32d9e4a53b926864e42db8f4d426f
    X-Priority: 3
    X-maillist-id: 70b185d7ca9f3200
    X-maillist-guid: CgdXWAJtUQQHAggAVVJQAFpfAwAEBw

    I want you to be there with me on Election Night when the results come in.

    We’re planning a big event that will include tens of thousands of supporters in Grant Park in downtown Chicago.

    We’re saving some of the best seats in the house for 5 people who make their first donation to the campaign before Sunday at midnight.

    If you’re selected, you can bring a guest, and we’ll fly you in and put you up in a hotel for the night. You’ll go backstage at the big event and — no matter what happens — you’ll have a front row seat to history as we celebrate the supporters who got us over the finish line.

    Any donation counts — whatever you can afford. Show your support at this crucial time with a donation of $5 or more, and you could join me on Election Night:

    https://donate.barackobama.com/frontrow

    This movement for change has been a testament to the power of ordinary Americans coming together to achieve extraordinary things.

    I look forward to having you there on Election Night.

    Thank you,

    Barack

    Paid for by Obama for America

    This email was sent to: [our E-mail address]

    To unsubscribe, go to: http://my.barackobama.com/unsubscribe

Note that you have to make a donation of “$5 or more,” and the letter does not say you can enter without payment of consideration. (If you could, it would eliminate one of the three elements–payment of consideration–that is necessary to constitute an illegal lottery.) Furthermore, the page to which it links (https://donate.barackobama.com/frontrow) does not offer a means of entering without payment of consideration.

    Make a Donation to Get a Front Row Seat to History

    You could be there with Barack on Election Night when the results come in.

    We’re planning a big event that will include tens of thousands of supporters in Grant Park in downtown Chicago.

    Some of the best seats are reserved for 10 people — 5 first-time donors and 5 previous donors — who make a donation one last time before Sunday at midnight.

    You and a guest will be flown to Chicago, put up in a hotel, and brought backstage for the biggest night of the campaign.

    Make a donation and you and a guest could join Barack on Election Night.

    Employment
    To comply with Federal law, we must use best efforts to obtain, maintain, and submit the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 per calendar year.

    Contributor
    first name
    last name
    address
    city
    state
    zip / post
    email address
    phone number
    Employment
    To comply with Federal law, we must use best efforts to obtain, maintain, and submit the name, mailing address, occupation and name of employer of individuals whose contributions exceed $200 per calendar year.
    employer
    occupation
    Amount
    $25 $100 $500 $2,300
    $50 $250 $1,000 Other: $
    Credit Card
    Visa MasterCard American Express Discover
    card number
    expiration

    You will be prompted to provide your PayPal account information upon clicking the ‘Process Contribution’ button
    Legal Compliance
    Check this box to confirm that the following statements are true and accurate:

    1. I am a United States citizen or a lawfully-admitted permanent resident.
    2. I am at least 16 years old.
    3. This contribution is not made from the general treasury funds of a corporation, labor organization or national bank.
    4. This contribution is not made from the funds of a political action committee.
    5. This contribution is not made from the treasury of an entity or person who is a federal contractor.
    6. This contribution is not made from the funds of an individual registered as a federal lobbyist or a foreign agent, or an entity that is a federally registered lobbying firm or foreign agent.
    7. The funds I am donating are not being provided to me by another person or entity for the purpose of making this contribution.

    Donating Offline: If you would prefer to contribute by mail, send a check to: Obama for America, P.O. Box 802798, Chicago, IL 60680
    Donating Monthly: Click here to make a recurring donation.
    Americans Abroad: Click here to make a donation.

    Your contribution is not tax-deductible for federal income tax purposes. An individual may contribute a maximum of $2,300 per election (the primary and general are separate elections). By submitting your contribution, you agree that $2,300 is designated for the general election. Offer void where prohibited by law.

Nowhere on this page can we find any statement to the effect that you can enter without payment of consideration–which was the Obama campaign’s explicit promise to Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety. In addition, we received yet another such E-mail this morning.

    From – Sat Nov 01 12:21:36 2008
    X-UIDL: 6259-1200724588
    X-Mozilla-Status: 1001
    X-Mozilla-Status2: 00000000
    Received: from mta-inap7.bluestatedigital.com ([69.25.74.173])
    by vms172071.mailsrvcs.net
    (Sun Java System Messaging Server 6.2-6.01 (built Apr 3 2006))
    with ESMTP id <0K9N00C8H7MD6J30@vms172071.mailsrvcs.net> for
    [our E-mail address]; Sat, 01 Nov 2008 02:03:49 -0500 (CDT)
    Received: by mta-inap7.bluestatedigital.com (Postfix, from userid 502)
    id 0DF3D17C67E9F; Sat, 01 Nov 2008 02:22:38 -0400 (EDT)
    Date: Sat, 01 Nov 2008 02:22:38 -0400
    From: “David Plouffe, BarackObama.com”
    Subject: Unexpected opportunity
    X-Originating-IP: [69.25.74.173]
    To: [our E-mail address]
    Reply-to: info@barackobama.com
    Message-id: <86b29dcfdb0d6efc2bcc971c3cfbfea4@localhost.localdomain>
    MIME-version: 1.0
    X-Mailer: PHPMailer [version 1.72-blue_mailer]
    Content-type: multipart/alternative;
    boundary=b1_86b29dcfdb0d6efc2bcc971c3cfbfea4
    X-Priority: 3
    X-maillist-id: 70e88929b2f39bee
    X-maillist-guid: CgdXWAJtUQQACwgMA1xRUwUKCVBRUg

    I’m writing to report that we’re seeing a surge of support in states we didn’t expect to be close contests, including Georgia and North Dakota.

    But the latest battleground is a major opportunity:

    John McCain’s home state of Arizona — where we go on the air today.

    Democrats haven’t been able to compete in these states in years — and each could open a new path to victory on Election Day. Make a donation of $5 or more today to expand our efforts in these new battleground states.

    As a bonus, any donation you make today means you could be selected for a trip to join Barack in Chicago on Election Night. We’ll fly you and a guest in, put you up in a hotel, and make sure you have some of the best seats for our huge public event with tens of thousands of supporters:
    Volunteers and staff are on the move in these new battleground states, and if we can provide them with the right support, they could put us over the top four days from now.

    We can’t take anything for granted, and this election is too important to ignore any potential path to victory. We need your help right now.

    Please make a donation to help us change the electoral map, and bring a real change to our country:

    https://donate.barackobama.com/frontrow

    It’s a volatile political landscape, and in the final four days we have to take the fight to our opponents everywhere we can.

    Thank you,

    David

    David Plouffe
    Campaign Manager
    Obama for America

    P.S. — If you cannot make a donation, you can still help get us across the finish line by volunteering to help get out the vote: http://my.barackobama.com/november [Note that this says only that you can volunteer to help get out the vote, it doesn’t say you can enter for the free trip to Chicago without making a donation.]

    Paid for by Obama for America

    This email was sent to: [our E-mail address]

    To unsubscribe, go to: http://my.barackobama.com/unsubscribe

John McCain said correctly that Barack Obama paid for his 30 minute ego trip (the one that delayed the World Series] with his broken promise to accept Federal campaign financing and spending limits. Now it looks like Obama wants to pay for the rest of his campaign with his broken promise to law enforcement agencies, and what may well be an illegal lottery in many jurisdictions. If Obama for America sent either of these solicitations by U.S. Mail, it may be in violation of Federal law as well; the Feds take a very dim view of the use of the mail system for scams, chain letters, and illegal gambling.

This Web site has information on Federal and State gambling laws. If you received either of the above solicitations, you might be able to see whether it violates your state’s gambling laws. If it does, please contact your state’s gambling regulatory authorities. Keep the Obama campaign’s E-mail so you can forward it with full headers as proof of origin.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: