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Online gambling ban bills drop this week

Online gambling ban bills drop this week
Sen. Kelly A. Ayotte (R.-N.H.) (Courtesy)

Capitol Hill conservatives are bracing for a fight they do not want to fight—the push by Las Vegas mogul Sheldon Adelson to legislate a federal ban online gambling.

The fight begins as soon as companion bills are filed in each chamber before the end of the week by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R.-S.C.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R.-Utah).

The bills were written by the staff of the Coalition to Stop Online Gambling, the advocacy group funded by Adelson, who has pledged to “spend whatever it takes” to see the legislation passed.

What gives this fight the “#awkward” is the huge give and the huge ask.

The Give: In the 2012 election cycle, Adelson, the chairman and CEO of the $14 billion-a-year Las Vegas Sands conglomerate, gave tens of millions of dollars to GOP presidential candidates former speaker Newton L. “Newt” Gingrich and former Massachusetts governor W. Mitt Romney, in addition to other candidates and the Republican Party. He spent $150 million to defeat President Obama, including giving almost $40 million to Karl Rove and his American Crossroads project.

The Ask: As states like New Jersey, where it is now legal, and Massachusetts, where there is a move to legalize online gaming, Adelson is convinced that online gambling competes with his brick-and-mortar poker rooms. To this end, he is calling on the Congress, and specifically his Republican friends, to outlaw his competition.

The ask has put Republicans in a precarious situation where they are forced to choose between philosophical principles, like federalism, and their opposition to crony capitalism against the obligation to hear out and support Adelson.

Texas Gov. J. Richard “Rick” Perry, for instance, was once one of the leading voices for federalism. But, he appeared to be balancing other priorities when he released his March 24 letter asking Congress to restrict his own state from emulating what New Jersey and others have done or are doing.

The jury was still out when in 2011, Conor Friedersdorf called Perry a “Tenth Amendment turncoat” in The Atlantic. Now we see the verdict vindicates Friedersdorf.

The feeling on Capitol Hill is that the bills will not pass, which sets up the situation, where Republicans take Adelson’s money with their fingers crossed.

The fear is that if enough Republicans sign up for the Adelson gravy train, the bills might reach an irreversible point of no return, where they cannot be turned back

Graham, in a primary fight against Tea Party candidates, has suddenly become interested in a federal solution.

Freedom Works’ Julie Borowski wrote: “Surprise, surprise. Adelson and his wife hosted a Graham fundraiser last year. According to Politico: ‘Adelson has not been a long-time Graham supporter, but in 2013 he and his wife Miriam — who have spread their money widely among Republicans — cut checks for $15,600 in campaign contributions to Graham.’”

Interestingly, Graham is without his fellow members of the new Three Amigos. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R.-N.H.), representing the “Live Free or Die” state, has so far stepped away from supporting the Graham project.

State leaders in the Granite State recently opted against allowing gambling in the state, a state prerogative that could be threatened by legislation being pushed by Adelson.

In interfering with states’ rights and establishing federal supremacy to forbid online gambling Congress would also inherently be grant the power prevent states from outlawing the same activities when circumstances or administrations change.

As for the other amigo, Sen. John S. McCain III (R.-Ariz.), one doubts he will join Graham—especially after he was caught playing online poker on his iPhone during a three-hour hearing on whether or not to bomb Syria in September.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R.-S.C.)

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R.-S.C.)

As for the other amigo, Sen. John S. McCain III (R.-Ariz.), one doubts he will join Graham—especially after he was caught playing online poker on his iPhone during a three-hour hearing on whether or not to bomb Syria in September.

Watch David Letterman’s Top Ten McCain Excuses:

Four years ago, Graham was vocal opposing plans by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) to legalize online gambling. “It appears Majority Leader Harry Reid is searching for a way to expand internet gambling in the United States.  I oppose any federal legislation that would force South Carolina to accept legalized gaming.”

Then, Graham was standing up for federalism. “Ten years ago, South Carolina eliminated video poker.  Those days are well behind us, and we must be vigilant in opposing any last-minute efforts in Washington aimed at forcing gambling on South Carolina.”

Today, Graham is on the other side, as states, such as Deleware and California, have bills in their legislatures that would legal online gambling inside their state’s borders.

In 2010, Graham was fighting the overreach of the federal government into the affairs of South Carolina. Today, he is the lead sponsor of the overreach bill.

In the House, Chaffetz has to somehow square the circle of the House’s leading libertarian leading the charge for the most brutal form of government intervention in the economy.

Of course, what is really going on is the raw exercise of power politics, and in an election year shaping up as a mid-term landslide for Republicans, one of the biggest supporters of the party is setting it up for fratricide.

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