Gun raffles are a no-no for political campaigns, according to a new opinion by the state’s Attorney General that takes issue with a popular activity for Republicans running for office in the state. Democrat Mark Herring says that gun raffles benefitting political candidates likely violates the state’s anti-gambling statutes, which limit raffles and other fundraisers that involve games of chance to “charitable organizations.”
The Virginia Mercury reports that several Republicans currently campaigning in the state have recently held gun raffles as part of their campaign activities, but Herring might want to read the fine print regarding the rules from the campaigns.
Corey Stewart, the former Prince William County board chairman, gave away an AR-15 as part of his 2017 run for governor.
Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, advertised a similar AR-15 giveaway this summer, promising to make the presentation onstage at an event with gun-loving rocker Ted Nugent.
Republican Bob Good, a former Liberty University athletics official running for Congress in Central Virginia’s sprawling 5th District, recently participated in a “God, Guns and a Good Time Rally” that advertised an AR-15 giveaway.
I took a look at the terms of Chase’s “gun giveaway” and learned that entrants didn’t need to actually make a campaign contribution in order to win the AR-15.
Each contribution to the Chase for Governor campaign of the recommended donation amount of $10 on the official giveaway contribution page will warrant one entry into the gun giveaway starting July 10, 2020 through 11:59PM on August 5, 2020.
Entries can be made without a contribution by signing up on the gun giveaway entry form at https://www.chaseforva.com/giveaway:-gun-giveaway-entry-form/. No donation is required for entry to win the giveaway. Entry with or without a contribution has an equal chance of winning.
It looks like in Chase’s case, the giveaway isn’t actually a raffle at all, which is defined in Virginia law as “a lottery in which the prize is won by (i) a random drawing of the name or prearranged number of one or more persons purchasing chances or (ii) a random contest in which the winning name or preassigned number of one or more persons purchasing chances is determined by a race involving inanimate objects floating on a body of water, commonly referred to as a ‘duck race.’”
Yes, a $10 donation to the Chase campaign got you an entry into the giveaway, but no donation was actually necessary in order to take part in the contest, which in my un-lawyered opinion makes Chase’s campaign event something other than a raffle.
As for the raffle at the campaign rally for congressional candidate Bob Good, his campaign says that the money raised wasn’t going towards his election efforts.
Multiple fliers for the event specifically highlight that all proceeds go towards Good’s campaign for Virginia’s 5th District Congressional seat. A similar listing on the Fluvanna County Republican Party’s website advertising the rally also lists Good as the sole beneficiary of the sweepstakes.
However, the Good campaign denies that it will be receiving funds from the raffle. Good for Congress Campaign Senior Advisor Chris Shores said in a statement to NBC29 the campaign has not received, and will not receive any money from the event.
Shores says the campaign did not know the raffle was being advertised as going towards them, emphasizing that the campaign “did not host, plan or promote the event,” and in fact they were only invited to it.
That particular campaign rally was organized by a group called the Virginia Freedom Caucus, which describes itself as ” a non-profit tax-exempt advocacy organization under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code.” According to the Virginia gambling statutes, organizations that operate “exclusively for religious, charitable, community or educational purposes” can hold raffles, as long as the money goes towards those same purposes.
If pro-2A candidates in Virginia are hoping to use the power of a gun giveaway to drum up interest and support, I’d say they’re better off using the model provided by the Chase campaign, which doesn’t require any money to enter and doesn’t meet the definition of a “raffle” under state law (of course, I’d also recommend getting an opinion from an actual attorney). A “gun giveaway” might lead to more huffing and puffing on the part of the state’s anti-gun Attorney General, but it would appear to be in compliance with state statutes.