Obama Raffle Video Not Legal, Election Law Experts Say

July 1st, 2011 8:29 AM

A video of President Barack Obama filmed in the White House and included in a fundraising e-mail sent to supporters is not legal, two election law experts told CNSNews.com.

The video was included in an e-mail sent to supporters of President Obama promoting a fundraising drive that offered participants a chance to win an invitation to dinner with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

The video was filmed in the White House and, because it is intended to raise funds, constitutes a violation of federal law, according to two election law experts contacted by CNSNews.com.

“I think this is a violation [of the law],” Cleta Mitchell, a member of the American Bar Association’s election law committee, told CNSNews.com.

“It is a specific prohibition on solicitation [of money] by the president, the vice president, or any member of Congress on any federal property,” she said.

According to federal law (Title 18, subsection 607 U.S.C.), “It shall be unlawful for an individual who is an officer or employee of the Federal Government, including the President, Vice President, and Members of Congress, to solicit or receive a donation of money or other thing of value in connection with a Federal, State, or local election, while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties.”

The White House contends that the video is legal, noting that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) issued a memo in 1979 explaining that the president can solicit funds in the White House, so long as he does so in the residential portion of the mansion, not in a room used for official business.

However, Hans von Spakovsky – former member of the Federal Election Commission and a Heritage Foundation legal analyst – told CNSNews.com that that exemption may not apply in this case because it appears that the video was not filmed in an area where the president actually lives.

Read more at CNSNews.com