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1991-4: Guidelines for "Made To Play" Games at Political Fundraiser

July 09, 1991

An opinion has been requested whether the proceeds from a "Chinese auction" or "kitchen bingo" conducted by a candidate's committee may qualify as matchable contributions under the New York City Campaign Finance Act. The fundraiser has been described as follows: people donate money to be admitted to play a game, such as bingo. Winners of the games are given low cost household items for prizes.

The Act defines "matchable contributions" as monetary contributions of up to $1,000 received from New York City residents. New York City Administrative Code §3-702(3). It specifically excludes "contributions in the form of the purchase price paid for an item with significant intrinsic and enduring value" from the definition of "matchable contribution", and it also excludes "contributions in the form of the purchase price paid for or otherwise induced by a chance to participate in a raffle, lottery, or a similar drawing for valuable prizes." Administrative Code §3-702(3) (b) and (c) (emphasis added).

The advisory opinion request implies that the low cost household items given as prizes do not have a significant intrinsic and enduring value, and are not valuable. If the event is clearly identified by the committee as a political fundraiser for the candidate, participation in the games would seem to be motivated primarily by a desire to support the candidate in light of the insignificant value of the prizes given. Thus, monetary donations for admission to the fundraiser, as described, that are made by individuals who are New York City residents would be matchable contributions. This opinion does not address the question whether any given prize would in fact have "significant intrinsic and enduring value" or is "valuable" within the meaning of Administrative Code Section §3-702(3).