Gimmick fundraisers bring in needed cash for congressional candidates

House and Senate candidates are deploying a range of gimmicks as they try to shake up their online solicitations in the quest for badly needed campaign cash.

Gun outings, golf, baseball games and face time with the candidate are all being offered to lure in donors.

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Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), who will likely face well-funded Democrat Elizabeth Warren in the fall, sent supporters an email Friday offering a chance to “win a day with Scott Brown.”

“Have you ever wanted a truly behind the scenes look at a major, nationally watched campaign?” reads the email from Christy Lewis, Brown’s digital director. “Well, now is your chance to spend a day on the campaign trail with Sen. Scott Brown.”

And it won’t be all hand-shaking and stump speeches.

“You'll ride with Scott in his truck, grab lunch at Kelly's Roast Beef, go on the campaign trail, squeeze in a round of bowling and finish out the day with a beer at J.J. Foley's."

The cost: A $10 donation to the campaign.

But no purchase necessary, the solicitation adds in small font. Just like a sweepstakes, everyone must be allowed to enter for free, so a separate link lets supporters enter the contest without donating.

The contest rules put the prize’s approximate retail value at $50.

President Obama has offered supporters a chance to win a similar goody for a donation of $3 or more, but those winners just got a meal, not the whole day, with the president.

Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the GOP nomination, has used gimmicks too. In March, his campaign offered donors the chance to attend the Patriots' Day Red Sox game with Romney and son Tagg for a mere $3.

In Arizona, Rep. David Schweikert (R) has had no shortage of ideas to get supporters involved — and their wallets open — as he prepares to square off with Rep. Ben Quayle (R) in a redistricting-related primary.

The freshman Republican is hosting the Schweikert Open Golf Tournament on May 5 at a Scottsdale, Ariz., golf club, and held another tournament for donors in December. Schweikert also held a Cajun-themed birthday fundraiser at a friend's home and an evening for doctors who support his reelection. 

But it was a range event at a Scottsdale gun club that raised the most eyebrows, especially in a state with a particular sensitivity to mixing guns and politics.

“Guests will have options for shooting, including exclusive usage of machine guns,” read the invitation that went out to supporters.

In North Carolina, where Obama will officially accept his party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention in September, Sen. Kay Hagan (D) offered donors a chance to win airfare and accommodations for the convention.

“Give $5 or whatever you can right now and you could win a trip to the Convention and participate in our Southern Hospitality,” Hagan wrote in March.

As Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn.) birthday approached on Friday, supporters for her House reelection campaign found an email in their inbox from her husband, Marcus Bachmann, with the subject line: “Shhh... don't tell Michele.”

“I really want this birthday to be special for Michele, but I know that what would mean the most to her is if she was able to hear from you,” he wrote under the banner “from the desk of Marcus Bachmann.”

He urged supporters to sign an online birthday card for the congresswoman, but also to chip in one dollar for every year since she was born, for a total of $56 — or two dollars per year, for those who can afford it.

“But, if you can't afford to give that much, a gift of $10 or even $25 is greatly appreciated,” read the letter.

- This story was posted on April 6 at 3:45 p.m. and has been updated.