BY MAIRE O’NEILL
A raffle being conducted by the Republican Party of Los Alamos is being shut down because the State Gaming Control Board says political parties are not qualified as non-profit organizations that can hold such raffles. The RPLA has reportedly been ordered to cease and desist on any further activity with regard to the raffle.
The raffle which was advertised by RPLA as “The Bitter Clinger’s Raffle – God, Guns and the GOP!” had generated controversy in the Los Alamos because the first prize, a Ruger Precision Creedmoor 6.5 rifle, was being displayed on a table in the RPLA booth at Ashley Pond Park during Los Alamos Summer Series events. The winning ticket was to be drawn in October at the RPLA Constitution Day Dinner.
The Los Alamos Reporter emailed RPLA chair Bill McKerley July 25 asking him about the raffle after receiving call from people concerned about the firearm being displayed in public. Kerley responded to contact RPLA first vice chair James Whitehead.
Whitehead responded to several questions asked by the Reporter in connection with the raffle. Asked what steps RPLA had to take to hold the raffle, Whitehead responded that RPLA “reviewed all applicable state and federal laws to ensure compliance”. He said RPLA had scheduled the services of a Federal Firearms License-holder to perform the background check and transfer at the conclusion of the raffle.
Asked why the $5 per ticket was considered a donation rather than a purchase, Whitehead responded that it is considered a donation “because it is in fact a donation”.
“We wanted to disclose to all participants that this is a fundraiser and the proceeds go to the RPLA,” he said.
Concerning the displaying of the rifle at the Summer Concert Series, Whitehead said RPLA had chosen to display it because it is “good advertisement and a great conversation starter”.
“Participation has increased significantly since displaying the rifle at public events. We keep the rifle secured to the table that it sits on with a security cable,” he said.
Asked of anyone had complained to the RPLA directly, Whitehead said he had been approached by one person that felt the need to vocalize his disapproval of the display of the rifle.
“I thanked him for his comment and he seemed to be surprised that I was not willing to argue with him. Overall, the response has been positive,” Whitehead said.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Whitehead declined to comment and referred the Reporter to the State Republican Party office.
The Reporter initially contacted McKerley by phone who said he would check on the email he reportedly received from the Gaming Commission and call back, however at this time, he has not done so.
Gaming Control Board officials say the fact that first prize in the raffle was a gun was not the issue in their action, only the gambling aspect.