The Gadfly and Jedge Possum were sitting on their front porch on one hot Camden County day. They were killing time and waiting for the temperature to cool off so they could get into a few local trash cans. In the humid haze of the fading afternoon, Gadfly turned to Jedge and told him about an idea he had:
“I’ve got two guns that I haven’t used in ages. I could sell them, but I’ve hit upon an idea that might make me even more money. I could sell raffle tickets to all of the folks who live around here and the prize would be a chance to win one of my guns. After I get all the money, I’ll pick two winning tickets. If I sell enough tickets, I might even make more than I ever paid for those guns.”
“Sounds like an easy way to make money. I’m surprised everybody isn’t doing it.”
Well, hold on there, Gadfly.
Before you run a raffle for those guns, you should be aware of a few rules Missouri has concerning raffles.
The first rule is in the Missouri Constitution. Only organizations recognized as charitable or religious pursuant to federal law may sponsor raffles and sweepstakes in which a person risks something of value for a prize.
Otherwise, the Gadfly might be charged with Promoting Gambling in the First Degree. This is a Class E Felony in Missouri.
Let’s look at the elements of this crime.
We know the Gadfly is not a charitable or religious organization. (Check)
Thus, he would be knowingly profiting from an unlawful gambling or lottery activity. (Check)
And he would receive in connection with this lottery or policy or enterprise more than one hundred dollars in any one day of money played in the scheme or enterprise (Check)
And something of value played in the scheme or enterprise with a fair market value exceeding one hundred dollars in any one day (Check)
So, it’s pretty likely that if the Gadfly or any of us regular folks publicly announced a raffle for a gun, sold tickets to that raffle, received money from those tickets, and gave away the prizes, we would be charged with a felony in short order.
I bring this up because our current Camden County Prosecuting Attorney’s election campaign recently announced and held just such a raffle. The proceeds from the raffle sale were supposed to go to his campaign: Camden County for Caleb Cunningham.
The image below was posted on the campaign Facebook page. Participants could purchase raffle tickets for a chance to win one of the two guns. Caleb’s campaign valued the two guns at approximately $1,750. The raffle tickets were purchased by various people and two winners were announced.
On July 18, Caleb Cunningham stated on KRMS Radio that two winners had been selected from the raffle and they would be receiving their guns. So he was definitely aware of the raffle.
A reasonable person might wonder if having a raffle where the proceeds from the ticket purchases go to a political campaign fund is restricted in some way by Missouri statutes?
His campaign is definitely not a charitable organization or a religious organization.
So how would this be any different from a raffle run by the Gadfly or any of us?
What makes this situation even worse is that the campaign was soliciting contributions in the form of raffle ticket purchases in exchange for a gift (the gun). Campaign contributions are not supposed to be given when a donor would receive something of value in return.
One of two things happened here. Either the Prosecuting Attorney knew this was illegal and he doesn’t believe the laws apply to him. Or the gentleman who is is responsible for filing criminal charges in Camden County doesn’t have a firm grasp on the criminal statutes of Missouri. I hope it was the latter.
You know full well that if you or I had done this, the prosecutor would have told the jury that ignorance of a law is not an excuse for violating it.
Caleb Cunningham has apparently now been alerted that the public is aware of the impropriety of this raffle. Shortly after the evidence of this raffle was forwarded to the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and the Camden County Sheriff’s Office, his campaign’s Facebook page deleted all posts related to this raffle. Why would they delete the posts if they felt that holding the raffle was legal? Luckily for us, we learned from our own Prosecutor’s Office that Facebook retains all posts so nothing is ever really deleted from Facebook.
Will they return the raffle money? Will they take back the gun gifts? It doesn’t matter. Once an offense has been committed, you can’t unring the bell.
This is just one more example of the simple fact that an attorney with less than a handful of years as a prosecutor is simply not experienced enough to fill the important position of the Camden County Prosecuting Attorney. Caleb Cunningham was appointed to his current position a little over a year ago and he is running for his first primary election on August 2nd. Less than two weeks from now.
The laws should apply to all of us equally. This election, let’s make sure that’s true in Camden County.