Attorney General Says Some Political Fundraisers Are Illegal

By Brian Carlton

October 6, 2020

Questions raised after political rallies appear to violate state laws

RICHMOND-Political campaigns can’t raise money through raffles. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring sent out a reminder Tuesday, in the wake of multiple events that appeared to violate that order. 

According to Herring’s office, Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Eastern Fairfax) asked for clarification if “a political party or a candidate’s campaign committee may conduct a raffle.” The answer, Herring said, is no. Herring argued that taking part in a raffle is gambling, which is generally against the law in Virginia. While the Virginia Code gives some exceptions for that, they only involve charitable causes. 

“Nonprofit organizations may raise funds by conducting raffles, but the expenditure of the derived proceeds is limited to the lawful, religious, charitable, community or educational purposes for which the organization is specifically charted,” Herring wrote. 

Basically, a church, a school club or any community group can hold a fundraising raffle. But political groups don’t fit in the Code’s loophole on gambling. 

“A political party is not an entity specifically chartered or organized for religious, charitable, community or educational purposes,” Herring wrote. “Likewise, a campaign for a candidate seeking elected office does not qualify.”

The Elections Guideline produced last year by the state’s Department of Elections also spells this out pretty clearly. 

“Political organizations in Virginia may not, under any circumstance, use raffles as a fundraising tool,” the document states. 

The DOE guide said politicians needed to avoid not just raffles, but also golf tournament, as anyone who buys a ticket is technically a donor. In order to follow state law, a campaign has to list every donor and they can’t easily do that if random people are buying tickets. 

Republican rally raises questions 

This didn’t come out of thin air. Multiple conservative groups appeared to ignore the Board of Elections rules over the last few months. The most recent event happened September 26, when the “God, Guns and a Good Time Rally” took place in Fluvanna County. Labeled as a Second Amendment Rally, the Fluvanna County Republican Party’s Facebook page advertises a gun raffle drawing. The page states “all proceeds go to Bob Good for Congress.” 

Before that, Republican candidate for governor Amanda Chase held a gun giveaway on Aug. 8. Her campaign promised to give away an AR-15 on stage with Ted Nugent at the event. 

Each of these situations don’t just fall under the raffle statute. They also fall under Virginia’s new gun laws, which we referenced Tuesday. Just because these were raffles or giveaways, the winner still has to go through a background check. 

In fact, Herring pointed out the Virginia Code says no one can sell a firearm unless the buyer passes a background check. 

“These requirements apply where a firearm is awarded as a prize in a raffle,” Herring said.

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s editor. He can be reached at [email protected]

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