Branson's letter to Huelskamp ( .PDF )
An email sent by U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp offering a chance at winning NCAA Basketball Tournament tickets in exchange for campaign contributions was a felony violation, according to Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson.
Branson wrote to Huelskamp, a Republican from Hutchinson, this morning to express concern about an email purportedly sent from Huelskamp offering entry into a random drawing for tickets to the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis, where Kansas University, Kansas State and Wichita State all will play.
Branson said a Douglas County resident inquired about an email offering the the chance to win tickets in exchange for a payment of at least $10. According to the letter written by Branson, the email provided a deadline and said that the winner would be determined at random.
“This office receives such inquiries from time to time and our answer is always the same,” Branson wrote. “Such contests are illegal lotteries under Kansas law. … The three elements of an illegal lottery are consideration, a prize and the winner of the prize is determined by chance.”
Clint Baes, a spokesman for the Kansas attorney general, confirmed receiving Branson's letter but said the office had no further comment Tuesday.
Huelskamp campaign spokesman Josh Bell produced a written statement Tuesday that claimed Branson "is misusing his official office in (an) attempt to score cheap political points."
The statement clarified that the opportunity to receive four tickets to watch the teams play in St. Louis did not require a contribution, citing a second email sent Tuesday by Huelskamp. Tuesday's email called all contributions voluntary, a statement not included in Monday's email announcing the contest.
Responding to Huelkamp's initial email, Branson said operating such a lottery is a felony under state law. Branson asked Huelskamp to immediately tell recipients any money paid to participate in the lottery would be returned to them upon request. Branson added that participants should also be told that they remain eligible to receive the prize “whether they paid any consideration to participate.”
Branson also asked the congressman to provide proof of who in Douglas County received the solicitation and proof that they have been contacted by Huelskamp outlining the new information. Branson also asked for evidence of whether the recipients requested their money be returned and proof that it was returned, and he set a deadline of March 26 for the proof.
Branson, who forwarded a copy of his letter to the Kansas attorney general, provided a copy of the email dated March 17 with the subject “Win NCAA Tournament Tickets” sent from firstname.lastname@example.org. According to the email, an online contribution of at least $10 to Huelskamp’s campaign between Monday and 8 a.m. Wednesday would enter participants into a drawing and the winner of the tickets would be revealed later that morning. The message is signed “Tim Huelskamp, Member of Congress” and includes a P.O. Box address in Fowler to which checks could also be mailed.
On Tuesday, Huelskamp made light of the KU-Kansas State rivalry, adding that he refused "to be intimidated by a Lawrence attorney likely still reeling from the 31-10 football blowout this fall and the 85-82 overtime victory by the Wildcats just last month."