Ed Shaw received a commendation from the state of California for his efforts to increase voter turnout in the June 8 primary and the next day was told that his project may have been a federal crime. Shaw, you may recall, is the Hollywood producer ("Hooray for Hollywood") and television actor ("Ozzie and Harriet") who staged an election-day sweepstakes in California with $5 million in donated prizes for voters who sent in their ballot stubs.
The winners of the biggest prizes--trips to Alaska, Hawaii and Las Vegas, and dinner dates with Hollywood stars--have already been announced and Shaw's helpers are still sorting out the winners of the other 700,000 prizes. California secretary of state March Fong Eu told Shaw that the sweepstakes weren't illegal as long as voters weren't rewarded for voting a certain way.
Eu's chief deputy, however, has since informed Shaw that federal law prohibits paying or offering to pay anyone either for registering to vote or voting when a federal office is on the ballot. Shaw says he has a pledge of $25 million in prizes for a national sweepstakes in November and has been arranging a sweepstakes for the Oklahoma primary next month.
Now, however, these plans are on hold while the Justice Department, which told Eu's office it had no intention of prosecuting anyone, looks further into the law. Shaw reacted in true Hollywood fashion.
"It's like getting the Academy Award and then they come and take it back," he said.