In the past 10 days, a barrage of emails from the Obama 2012 camp touting “Dinner with Barack and Michelle” has left me wondering: Is President Obama running a national lottery to raise money for the coming election?

Based on my review of this fundraising campaign “promotion,“ the answer would be ”yes.”

The idea is a simple one:

  • Obama 2012 asks the people on its substantial mailing list (of which I am one) to donate to the campaign, and each time you give between $3 and $2500, your name is entered into a drawing.
  • After Dec. 31, three names will be drawn and those lucky folks (and their guests) will be having dinner with the president and first lady.

Of course there are rules, regulations and hoops to jump through. In fact, there are seven pages of rules and regulations. (Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this promotion comes from a political party. Political animals on both sides of aisle have a tendency to create bloated documents filled with extraneous words and concepts.)

And then there are the tax consequences.

Just like winning a car from Oprah, this prize is something you will pay to win. Written into the rules is a statement about the tax liability to all winners.

ALL FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL TAXES ASSOCIATED WITH THE RECEIPT OR USE OF ANY PRIZE ARE THE SOLE RESPONSIBILITY OF WINNER.  

So, you might win a dinner with the first couple, but it’s ultimately going to cost you. How much? That all depends on your tax bracket and the value of the prize. The official rules document has put a value on the prize – Approximate retail value of the each entire trip package: $1,600.

That $1600 price tag is based on airfare for two at $600 each, a hotel room for one night — double occupancy $200 — and dinner for two, $200. You see, winners will not be visiting the White House for dinner with the Obamas. The event will happen somewhere else in America and all winners will be arranging their own travel and hotel accommodations, and will be credited up to $1,400 for travel and hotel.

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