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Democrats Stage Contest: Win a Meeting with Obama

Barack Obama
Organizing for America

Move over, Publishers Clearing House. The Democratic National Committee is staging a sweepstakes, and President Obama is the grand prize.

The contest is called "Go Backstage with the President." On October 22, Mr. Obama will be doing a Democratic Party get-out-the-vote rally in Las Vegas. Three winners will be flown to the gambling mecca, put up at a hotel, receive tickets to the rally and get to meet the president backstage.

The DNC's grassroots subsidiary "Organizing for America," which bills itself as the successor organization to Barack Obama's presidential campaign, is urging supporters to make a political contribution and be "automatically" entered in the Backstage/Obama contest. Its online offer to supporters says as little as a $3 contribution will automatically enter you in the lottery, though the group will graciously accept contributions as large as $30,400, the legal annual maximum contribution a registered political committee can accept.

But if you read the small print of the rules of the Obama Sweepstakes, you find that "no purchase, payment or financial contribution of any kind is necessary to enter or win."

Now it could be embarrassing were an inappropriate individual to enter the contest and win face time with the president. Consider the ramifications were Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Fidel Castro to enter and win a backstage pass.

To prevent that, the contest rules clearly state that the promotion is open "only to individual United States Citizens and lawful permanent U.S. residents" of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. You're out of luck, Mahmoud.

Neither does the DNC want the president embarrassed by having to meet with inappropriate Americans - so the rules also state that "businesses, corporations, registered federal lobbyists, registered foreign agents, federal political action committees, national banks, federal contractors, labor organizations or other entities are not eligible to enter or win a prize."

The entry period for the sweepstakes began Monday and closes at 11:59 p.m. on October 15. The winners will be determined by a random drawing from all eligible entries to be held at Democratic National Committee Headquarters on October 16, 2010. If you win, the DNC promises to contact you by phone or e-mail no later than October 18, which gives you a few days to claim your prize and get to Vegas.

The DNC says the approximate retail value of its grand prize trip package is $1,200. But Mr. Obama might feel insulted by how the DNC came up with that figure. It said the round-trip coach airplane ticket to Las Vegas is worth about $1,100, and the one-night's stay at a hotel there has a retail value of about $100. But then -- the DNC says the approximate retail value of the backstage meeting with the President of the United States is -- sorry, Mr. President: "$0.00"

If you are one of the three lucky winners, you must agree to allow your name, hometown and likeness to be used by the DNC for promotional purposes without limitation and without further permission or compensation.

The DNC says the odds of winning a prize depend on the number and quality of eligible entries received.

But adding insult to victory, the rules state - in capital letters - that "all federal, state and local taxes associated with the receipt or use of any prize are the sole responsibility of the winner."

You probably won't have to give Mr. Obama a check for the taxes when you meet him.


Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/markknoller.