Tulare Co. sheriff candidate claims opponent is holding illegal raffle

The Fresno BeeFebruary 20, 2014 

— David Whaley, a candidate for Tulare County sheriff, is claiming that Acting Sheriff Mike Boudreaux's campaign is holding an illegal raffle to raise money.

Raffles are illegal unless they're for charity, Whaley said at a news conference Thursday.

"As law enforcement officers, we should be held to higher standards than anyone else," he said. "My opponent's campaign does not qualify as a charity."

He called on Boudreaux to return money raised from ticket sales.

He also trotted out lawyer Merl Ledford III of Visalia, who said "it's open and shut" that a political campaign does not qualify as a charity because state law doesn't list political campaigns as eligible to hold lotteries, and a raffle is a type of lottery.

But within minutes, the Boudreaux campaign held its own news conference and responded that the raffle, to be held Feb. 28, is indeed legal.

"This is such a minute issue," Boudreaux said. "We're very much following the law."

Even before the dueling news conferences, Boudreaux's campaign consultant Tim Orman of Fresno emailed reporters a letter by lawyer Brian T. Hildreth of the Sacramento law firm Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk.

The letter said the raffle is actually a "giveaway," because anyone can ask for a complimentary ticket.

The Friends for Mike Boudreaux posters for the raffle say "Gun Raffle Fund Raiser " -- the prizes are pistols and shotguns -- and tickets cost $20.

"If you offer a complimentary ticket, it's very clear" that a raffle is within the law, Boudreaux said. It's a fundraiser but complimentary tickets are available, and anyone who wants a refund can have one, he said.

"This was another tactic of the opposition to obtain some air time," he said.

But the battle cry from the Whaley campaign got the Boudreaux campaign's attention.

About a week and a half ago, the Whaley campaign hand-delivered a letter to the Boudreaux campaign alleging that its raffle is illegal.

Whaley said the campaign quickly printed new posters with fine print added, tore down old posters and put up new ones. He passed out copies of both posters to reporters.

Boudreaux said the campaign followed state law governing raffles "from the beginning," but had new posters printed because "we wanted to take that extra step."

The fine print states that contributions aren't tax deductible, that state law requires the names of people donating, and that no purchase is necessary.

Whaley said his campaign sent a complaint letter to the Tulare County District Attorney's office.

The D.A.'s office got the letter but no decision has been made whether to start an investigation, Assistant District Attorney Anthony Fultz said.

"We're looking at our options," he said.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6104, lgriswold@fresnobee.com or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.

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