*** UPDATE:  Someone from the Morgan campaign got in touch to respond to my queries and suggested that the event  — which sure sounds like a raffle — was legal because the description of the event doesn’t literally use the word “raffle.” (A political campaign holding a raffle to raise campaign cash would be an apparent violation of the law.) I’ve updated the post below throughout to reflect the Morgan campaign’s comments.  UPDATE 2: Since this post went up, for whatever reason, the campaign’s website changed the language for the event from a “drawing” to a “choosing,” eliminated references to a “winner” and the chance to “win” the prize, eliminated the word “prizes,” and other changes. ***

The Jan Morgan campaign for governor is holding a raffle (though they avoid using that word) open to donors who give at least $50, with the winner receiving a Jan Morgan engraved commemorative Kimber micro 9 handgun. From her website:

The Jan Morgan for Governor campaign is giving away this awesome Kimber micro 9 handgun with Jan Morgan’s signature engraved. One lucky supporting patriot will be the proud owner of this highly collectible gun.

Support Jan’s campaign with a gift of $50.00 and you’ll be entered in for a chance to win this special Jan Morgan engraved commemorative Kimber micro 9 handgun.

I’m no lawyer, but I expect one of those pesky establishment Republicans might file an ethics complaint. State law has fairly picky regulations about raffles, defined as “the selling of tickets to win a prize awarded though a random drawing.”

When asked about the legality of this event, a member of Morgan’s campaign team, Reggie Cowan, wrote, “Nowhere in the description does it say ‘raffle.'” Well…okay then! The Morgan campaign is holding a random drawing for a prize that people can enter by making a donation. That would seem to clearly match the statute’s definition of “raffle” above. If all you have to do to dodge the law is avoid using the word “raffle,” the law is meaningless.

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As a legal matter, it actually makes things worse if it’s not a “raffle.” The reason that  designation is in the constitution in the first place is to specifically grant an exception for certain events that would otherwise be illegal “lotteries” (see for example this attorney general’s opinion on events considered unlawful lotteries). Such an event held by an entity that didn’t meet the lawful criteria for a charitable raffle would technically be considered an unsanctioned lottery, which carries steeper penalties under the law.

I suppose you could split hairs about what constitutes a “ticket,” but again, that would be a loophole so big as to make the law moot. In the case of this gun giveaway, of course, entrance to the drawing is purchased via making campaign donations (Morgan’s website makes this clear in allcaps: ENTER FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN BY DONATING WITH FORM BELOW.) That’s a raffle. The Morgan campaign said they had talked to the Ethics commission “about the wording and legality.” I’ve got a query in to the commission, which has certainly been extremely reluctant in recent years to do anything about candidate misbehavior.

Here’s the law on raffles that the campaign is apparently trying to dodge by calling it a “drawing” (that’s what the website originally said, anyway — since this post went up, the references to a “drawing” have been changed to a “choosing”):

Amendment 87 to the state constitution only allows lotteries if they are established by the General Assembly, with revenues targeted for certain designated purposes. Otherwise they are barred by the constitution. Raffles and games of bingo random-drawing are allowed under Amendment 84, and are considered separate from lotteries — but only “if all net receipts over and above the actual cost of conducting the game of bingo or raffle are used only for charitable, religious, or philanthropic purposes.” Jan Morgan’s campaign for governor doesn’t fit into any of those categories. Note: Even if the Morgan campaign is trying to claim that this isn’t a raffle, that would seem to mean that the event was a lottery, which would also be illegal (remember, the whole point of Amendment 84 was to legalize certain pay-to-enter random-drawing events for prizes that were otherwise considered unauthorized lotteries). If it’s not a raffle, it’s a lottery. There is no special exception in the constitution or Arkansas code for “drawings” (or “choosings”). 

Meanwhile, here are the “authorized organizations” eligible for a license to conduct a raffle under the law: “a nonprofit tax-exempt religious, educational, veterans, fraternal, service, civic, medical, volunteer rescue service, volunteer firefighters organization, or volunteer police organization that has been in continuing existence as a nonprofit tax-exempt organization in this state for a period of not less than five (5) years immediately prior to conducting the game of bingo or raffles.” Again, I’ll defer to the lawyers, but it seems to me that a campaign should not be in the raffle business under state law.

There are various other rules and regulations which would seem to be a minefield for a campaign running this sort of operation in exchange for campaign cash. You can peruse them at your leisure under Arkansas Code § 23-114, as well as rules created by the Department of Finance and Administration, the relevant regulatory and enforcement agency, to administer the law.

Here is the process that an authorized organization goes through to get a license via the DFA to operate a legal raffle. The Morgan campaign would not qualify for such a license under the law and I assume they don’t have one; I asked the campaign whether they — or anyone involved — had such a license and did not receive a direct response, other than being told, “Nowhere in the description does it say ‘raffle.'”

A violation of the law on raffles by a licensed authorized organization is punishable by up to a $5,000 fine for the first offense, and a $10,000 fine for subsequent offenses. If a raffle is conducted without a license, that would amount to a violation of the law on lotteries, with the first violation punishable by up to a $10,000 fine; the second or subsequent offense is a Class D felony (a felony conviction, by the way, would make someone ineligible to own a firearm).

An Ethics Commission advisory opinion in 1998 held that campaign raffles were impermissible, but that was well before Amendment 84, passed by voters in 2006, allowed raffles under certain conditions. Again, however, raising money for a political campaign is not one of the allowable categories for legal raffles under Amendment 84; a gun giveaway by random drawing to fundraise for a campaign would appear at first glance to be an illegal and unlicensed “lottery” under the law, which is what that old Ethics opinion addressed.

Realistically, I don’t think we’ll be seeing a DFA raid or a prosecutor taking this to court, but it would be interesting to hear what the Ethics Commission has to say now on the question of campaign raffles if someone decides to file a complaint. If their answer is that it’s okay if as long as you don’t literally use the word “raffle,” we might as well scratch out the law in magic marker.

Here’s more on the gun giveaway from Morgan’s website (this is what it said this morning; the language on Morgan’s webpage about the event has been altered since this post went up, including changing the word “drawing” to “choosing,” eliminating all uses of the words “win,” “winner,” or “winning,” eliminating the word “giveaway,” eliminating the word “prizes,” and other changes):

Gun description: KIMBER MICRO 9 STAINLESS 9MM 3.15″ BARREL 7+1 ROSEWOOD CRIMSON TRACE LASERGRIPS 3700482

A drawing of supporting donors will take place once this donation campaign reaches 200 entries or by May 21st 2018 latest. All participating supporters will be notified when the drawing will take place and the giveaway results via email. The winner will be notified by email and or phone. We will also draw participating supporter names to award gift prizes that include private gun lessons with Jan, and or signed campaign apparel.

Disclaimer: The winning supporter must be able to show proof of ID and legally be able to pickup up the gun at an authorized gun dealer of our choice. All/Any fees and taxes associated with receiving this gun will be the sole responsibility of the winner.

State Sen. Linda Collins-Smith likes the concept, calling the gun raffle “cool.”

Raffles seem to be popular at the Morgan campaign. Last night on Facebook, Morgan livestreamed a campaign event on a cruise boat that was holding a raffle, or whatever you want to call it, for a cash prize. I’ve asked the Morgan campaign if this raffle was also a fundraiser for her campaign, as it appears, and have not received a response. They also did not respond to my queries about whether they considered this previous random drawing for a cash prize to be a “raffle,” or not a raffle because they didn’t use that word.

Here’s a closeup shot of the big prize in the gun giveaway:


To see the alterations made to the description of the event on the website, below is a  screenshot of this morning, followed by a screenshot of changes made after this post went up.

This morning:

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After this post went up: