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RNC Asks for Federal Probe of Obama Campaign Video

Republicans haven't settled on their pick for the 2012 presidential election yet, but the Republican National Committee made it clearer Monday who they are running against.

"It is with grave concern that I write to request a Department of Justice investigation into an apparent crime committed by President Barack Obama," begins a letter from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to the Department of Justice Monday.

In it, Priebus asks Attorney General Eric Holder to look into whether or not Mr. Obama broke any federal laws by filming a campaign-related video in the White House last month.

White House Spokesman Eric Schultz challenged the RNC's assertions citing several analyses saying otherwise. "As we've said in the past, this is wholly appropriate and routinely done in past administrations, as evidenced by an abundance of examples spanning the past three decades," he told Fox News.

A senior administration official also provided a link to a political news story highlighting a similar pitch that then-president George W. Bush made for GOP nominee John McCain.

"[E]xperts and lawyers have said publicly that all that this administration is doing is above board," Schultz said.

The issue at hand was whether or not the video crosses the legal line between official and campaign-related business.

The video was the president's personal pitch to get supporters to enter a raffle, the winner of which would be rewarded with a dinner with the president.

Shortly after the original solicitation, President Obama upped the ante, "Hi everybody! I've got a pretty big announcement about that contest the campaign is running where you can join me for dinner. We're setting another place at the table for Joe Biden, he wants to join us. So, this isn't so much dinner with Barack anymore as it is dinner with Barack and Joe," the president said.

A Democratic National Committee TV crew shot the video in the Map Room of the White House, which has been used by presidents in both formal and informal capacities over the years.

However, in the e-mail linking supporters to the video, Obama's Campaign Manager Jim Messina urges, "Make a donation today and be automatically registered for a chance to have dinner with President Obama and Vice President Biden together. We'll cover your airfare and the meal -- all you need to bring is your story and your ideas."

The entire episode amounts to a solicitation of money, says the RNC.

"According to federal law, it is a crime for the President of the United States to solicit political contributions in a place of official government business," reads an RNC's press release. "Chairman Priebus has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for the Department of Justice to investigate the matter to determine if, in fact, federal laws were broken by President Obama."

The Justice Department has not said whether or not an investigation will actually take place, but caught up in the legal word-play is the definition of the word "residence," which might factor into whether or not the president was inappropriately using the White House for election purposes.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney recently defined the entire building attached to the West Wing as the "residence" of the president. The map room would be included in such a definition.

A senior administration official argues, "[T]here is largely consensus that the video was perfectly legal. The legal restriction is only that we cannot solicit funds in certain offices in the White House, which we're not doing."

Then there's the fine print. At the bottom of the raffle form, there was a disclaimer stating, "no purchase, payment or contribution necessary to win. Contributing will not improve chances of winning."

The contest is now closed. As of this writing, no winner has been announced.

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