Here are the rules for the Dinner With Obama contest:
Fifty (50) potential winners will be selected by a random drawing from all eligible entries to be held at Obama for America Headquarters on January 20, 2012. Sponsor may, at its option, conduct a background check on each potential winner. Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any potential winner from receiving any prize based on such background check if Sponsor determines, in its sole discretion that awarding any prize to such potential winner could result in a safety or security risk to any person or persons or could result in the disruption of any event associated with the Promotion. Sponsor will, in its sole discretion, then select three (3) winners from the list of eligible potential winners on the basis of criteria determined and applied by Sponsor to provide for an appropriate range of views, backgrounds, and interests among the winners selected. Winners will be notified by phone or e-mail by January 31, 2012. To claim the prize, each winner should follow the instructions and comply with the conditions contained in his/her notification. Winners must then identify potential guests to Sponsor, and Sponsor may, at its option, conduct the same background check and process applicable to potential winners. Sponsor reserves the right to disqualify any potential guest in its sole discretion.
I believe that these rules may be illegal; more below the squiggle.
Like any legal lottery of this kind, there is no purchase necessary to enter. In fact, you can legally enter for free up to 10 times a day. But entry doesn't get you a chance to win; it gets you a chance to be one of the 50 "potential winners". If you believe that people who did not donate will be selected as one of the 4 real winners... I have a bridge for you.
Is Obama allowed to have dinner with whomever he wants? Of course. Is he allowed to run a lottery and have dinner with the winner? Yes. Is he allowed to screen out genuine security risks from that list? I'd say so.
But when it comes to "Sponsor will, in its sole discretion, then select three (3) winners...", that gives an obvious way to make the "no purchase necessary" option a dead letter. IANAL, but this may be stretching the law a bit too far.
Why am I writing this diary? I would like to enter and have a real chance of talking to Obama. I would like other former Obama financial supporters like myself to be eligible to enter, so that if one of us won, we could tell him why we no longer want to support his campaign.
I admire and support the "dinner with a normal person" contest, and even consider it appropriate to use it as an opportunity to ask for money. But I think that the "no purchase necessary" laws have a reason for existence, and that they should be followed in this case. The rules as they are written certainly violate the spirit of these laws, if not the letter.
I would hope that the Obama campaign can fix this for the next time they run the contest. Simply remove the "select 3 winners" text, but retain the "safety and security risk" rules as is.
I expect some flames in response to this diary. But I believe that this site should not shrink back from responsible questions, whether major or minor, about the legality of public official's actions, no matter what the level or party of that official. The president is not above the law, not even minor laws like this.