Government & Constitution

Abramoff: Adelson’s pressing GOP to outlaw online gaming is corruption

Abramoff: Adelson's pressing GOP to outlaw online gaming is corruption
Kevin Spacey on the phone as Jack Abramoff in the film "Casino Jack." (Courtesy ATO Films)

Washington’s most notorious lobbyist told Human Events that the effort by gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson to outlaw online gambling is corruption.

Adelson has crossed the line, but he is not alone, said Jack Abramoff, a former Washington operator and author of  “Capitol Punishment: The hard truth about Washington corruption from America’s most notorious lobbyist.” Abramoff served 43 months in federal prison for activities related to his lobbying. In addition to his media and speaking appearances, he comments on Washington events and people at his website: abramoff.com.

Adelson is the CEO and chairman of Las Vegas Sands, a $14 billion-a-year gambling conglomerate and a major contributor to the Republican Party.

The Las Vegas Sands flagship casino (Courtesy Sands)

The Las Vegas Sands flagship casino (Courtesy Sands)

In the 2012 election cycle, Adelson is the man who stepped into keep the presidential campaign of former speaker Newton L. “Newt” Gingrich afloat, enabling him to come back and win the Georgia primary and seriously challenge the eventually nominee former Massachusetts governor W. Mitt Romney.

After Romney was the GOP nominee, Adelson supported him, too. In the 2014 election cycle, Adelson has given Republicans notice that if they want his support, they need to pass a ban online gaming.

To organize this effort, he created a front group, The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, has gathered up a roster of strange bedfellows, such as Republican Texas Gov. Richard J. “Rick” Perry, former Republican New York governor George Pataki, as well as, Democrats, such as Massachusetts Attorney General Martha M. Coakley and former speaker of the California Assembly Willie Brown.

The pressure to ban Internet gambling comes as Adelson is getting ready to stroke a massive check to fund the final mile of the GOP’s campaign to win the Senate in November. Some Capitol Hill whisperers put the check at $100 million based on the plans Republican strategists presented to Adelson.

The political world is full of similar examples of businesses or industries using politicians to improve their own situation, Abramoff said.

“It is a line that everybody is crossing all day,” he said. “Everytime an individual contributes money to a public official and then asks that politician to do something, you have crossed that line—that is the essence of D.C.—it is not just Sheldon Adelson.”

Abramoff said he wanted to be careful in his phrasing regarding Adelson. “I don’t know all the details,” he said. “But, in general, if someone is giving money and asking for things back that is crossing that line—and unfortunately it is going on all over the place.”

It is bribery. It might not be statuary bribery, but it is bribery, giving a public servant money, he said “I don’t know Sheldon Adelson, I only know what I read about him,” he said.

Jack Abramoff in the header to his website: abramoff.com (Screenshot)

Jack Abramoff in the header to his website: abramoff.com (Screenshot)

“But it seems to me that he has been very active politically with significant money before he jumped into this Internet gambling thing,” he said.

“I don’t see any reason to believe that this is the reason he got active or gave money in the past,” he said.

“I think it was more related to Israel and conservative issues.” The move against online gaming is new turn for Adelson, he said.

“Obviously, this relates directly to his business and he is hiring lobbyists to protect his business,” he said. Adelson may profess to have traditional or other reasons to oppose online gaming, he said. “But, this has a major impact on his land-based casinos—or at least, he feels it does.”

When Abramoff was actively operating in the capital, he worked against banning online gamble because he believes the Internet should be free from government control, he said. The former president of the Massachusetts College Republicans said there are two reasons why he opposed the ban.

“I didn’t want to see the government regulating the Internet, except for national security reasons,” he said. The second reason was that given that there were already land-based casinos, the real concern was being able to protect children from going to the sites to gamble, he said.

The Adelson bid to outlaw online gaming is not really what he considers crony capitalism, he said. “It is different from what we have seen with the Obama administration, where the donors use their political connections to get the government to bail them out, give them loans, give them huge grants, give them contracts, and that kind of thing.”

It could be that plying the government to outlaw your competition is a cousin to crony capitalism, he said.

“Frankly, it is under the category of corruption.”

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