FLUVANNA COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Republican voters and officials gathered for the God, Guns, and a Good Time Rally in Fluvanna County on Saturday, September 26. At that event, a raffle held in the name of Bob Good’s campaign for Congress appears to have violated state gambling and campaign finance laws.
The raffle in question offered an AR-15 as the top prize and a bolt action rifle for the runner-up. Third place received a gift card. The prizes are actually not an issue according to Virginia law, the raffle itself is where the problem lies.
According to the Virginia Code, raffles are considered charitable gambling, like bingo. However, charitable gambling events are only allowed as fundraisers for groups, “operated exclusively for religious, charitable, community or educational purposes.” Political groups and campaigns don’t qualify.
That’s something Attorney General Mark Herring outlined in an opinion in 2018.
“Accordingly, it is my opinion that a political party may not conduct a raffle as a form of charitable gaming in the Commonwealth, as it is not an entity specifically chartered or organized for religious, charitable, community, or educational purposes," Herring wrote in an advisory opinion for a similar situation in a General Assembly race at the time.
Virginia’s Department of Elections agrees. As of their last Election Guideline update in 2019, the department encourages candidates and political parties to avoid raffles in part due to them not providing proper identification of participants, who are effectively becoming donors by taking part.
“Political organizations in Virginia may not, under any circumstance, use raffles as a fundraising tool," the guideline says. It also warns about other scenarios, like golf tournaments and “pass-the-hat,” fundraisers.
Where the funds raised by the raffle are going is unclear.
Multiple fliers for the event specifically highlight that all proceeds go towards Good’s campaign for Virginia’s 5th District Congressional seat. A similar listing on the Fluvanna County Republican Party’s website advertising the rally also lists Good as the sole beneficiary of the sweepstakes.
However, the Good campaign denies that it will be receiving funds from the raffle. Good for Congress Campaign Senior Advisor Chris Shores said in a statement to NBC29 the campaign has not received, and will not receive any money from the event.
Shores says the campaign did not know the raffle was being advertised as going towards them, emphasizing that the campaign “did not host, plan or promote the event,” and in fact they were only invited to it.
Saturday’s rally, organized by the Virginia Freedom Caucus, was headlined by Good and country music singer John Rich. Rally organizers say the goal was to show support for the Second Amendment and to energize voters ahead of November’s election.
The Virginia Freedom Caucus did not respond to multiple requests for comment by deadline.
If an investigation by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services finds them in violation of state law, the penalty is a class 1 misdemeanor. That charge carries up to a 12 month jail sentence and/or up to a $2500 fine.
In a Monday evening communication the Bob Good for Congress campaign underlined their separation from the drawing, saying "(It) did not, is not, and will not receive any funding associated with the event or raffle. The event and raffle was neither planned nor hosted by our campaign, and any insinuation otherwise would be a complete misrepresentation of the facts.”
Josh Rosene, a senior advisor with Bob Good for Congress, added that the Virginia Attorney General’s opinion (on raffles) “…would not apply as his opinion only noted political parties, not political campaigns - of which there are vast legal and fundamental differences.”