Herman: Good news! Looks like the Abbott campaign raffle is legal

5:32 p.m Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 Opinion
Texans for Greg Abbott
Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign is raising money by raffling off a Houston Astros flag that was displayed on the Governor’s Mansion after the Astros won the World Series. This is a photo the campaign sent with the fundraising email. TEXANS FOR ABBOTT

As an American who believes it’s important for us to be able to believe in our elected leaders, I’m happy to bring you this update: It looks like the Gov. Greg Abbott campaign’s Astros flag raffle is legal. I told you this would work out OK.

You might recall I raised a question about this after several readers noted that, under state gambling law, a political campaign cannot conduct a raffle in which folks must pay to enter. The legal term for that is “illegal.”

The Abbott campaign last week announced it’s raffling off an Astros flag that hung at the Governor’s Mansion after our beloved Houston baseball team won the 2017 World Series. The email fundraising pitch said the contest was open to folks who donate $3 or more to the Abbott re-election campaign.

That would appear to make it an illegal raffle under state law. But buried way down in the email pitch about the raffle was fine print saying, “No purchase or contribution is necessary to enter or win. For more information, contact info@gregabbott.com.” That would make it legal.

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So, wanting the flag (though a longtime Mets fan), I dutifully sent an email to info@gregabbott.com to figure out how to enter without a purchase or contribution. My first request was sent Monday morning. After hearing nothing in return, I sent another email Tuesday morning. Friday is the deadline and the drawing is Saturday, so the clock is ticking on this.

Early Wednesday, still not having heard how to enter without sending money, I tried to enter by putting zero dollars on the entry form that offered eight choices ranging from $35 to $2,500.

There’s another box in which you can choose to “Make this a monthly recurring donation.” The campaign has helpfully checked that box, requiring entrants to uncheck it if they don’t want to make it a monthly recurring donation.

There’s also an “other” box, one I thought might be able to be used to enter without contributing. So I entered a zero in the “other” box but got dead-ended when the form asked for my credit card number. It seemed weird to give my credit card number for a transaction in which no money was changing hands. So I didn’t, and I gave up and waited to see if I’d get a response to my inquiry sent to info@gregabbott.com.

Sure enough, my answer came in a cordial 11:20 a.m. email from Peyton at Texans for Greg Abbott:

“Mr. Herman, Thank you for contacting Texans for Greg Abbott about our Astros flag contest. No contribution is required to be entered into the contest. Based on your email, it appears you wish to be entered, so we will do that now. The contest ends Dec. 1., 2017, and we will contact the winner the day after the drawing. Thank you and have a great day.”

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Well, thank you, Peyton. And you have a great day, too. And any day I have a chance, at no cost, to win sports memorabilia is a great day. And it will be even greater if I win. FYI, several readers told me they got the exact same response, so that must be the form email that’s going out.

I still think it’s kind of weird to raffle off, for political fundraising purposes, something with a value based on the fact that it was displayed on a state-owned building. But if you’re going to do that, it’s best to do it legally. Good for you, Gov. Abbott.

Let me take this opportunity to renew my call for lots of folks (perhaps including Abbott nonsupporters) to take advantage of this no-cost offer to win the Astros flag. That email address again is info@gregabbott.com.

It might be fun to display the flag next to a banner supporting Abbott’s Democratic challenger, assuming the Democrats come up with one. Did I mention that the email address is info@gregabbott.com?

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