COLUMBIA, Mo – The Boone County Democratic Party recently held a fundraising raffle for a chance to win a Lux Pass to a True/False Film Fest – but their raffle may violate state gambling laws.
In 1998, the Missouri constitution was amended to allow organizations recognized under federal law as charitable or religious to hold raffles where people can purchase tickets with a chance of winning a prize. That leaves one question – are political parties legally considered charitable?
A legal expert consulted by The Heartlander said it would be surprising if the Boone County Democratic Party claimed to be a federal charity, as charitable organizations – known in federal law as 501(c)(3) organizations – are prohibited from participating in any political campaign for any candidate.
“Prosecution of illegal raffles in Missouri is up to either the attorney general or county-level prosecuting attorneys,” the expert continued. “If the Boone County Democratic Party violated Missouri law by holding a raffle, it could face legal consequences.”
Similar instances have come up in the past where political organizations or candidates raised legal questions before the Missouri Ethics Commission for hosting raffles in order to fundraise money.
In 2014, Republican primary candidate for House district 139, Michael Hope, attempted to raffle off a hot tub to fundraise money for his campaign. Questions over the raffle’s legality began to circle, and the hot tub was never awarded to anyone.
Both the Boone County Democratic Party and the Boone County Prosecutor did not respond to multiple requests for comment. It is unclear at this time if a criminal complaint will be referred to the local prosecutor, or if the Boone County Democrats plan to return raffle donations.
The Boone County Democratic Party cannot be federally registered as a charitable organization as their main mission is to elect Democrats to office. Therefore, it seems as though the Boone County Democratic party, or any political party, is not legally allowed to host fundraising raffles.