Libertarians and conservatives on Capitol Hill are watching to see if anyone else joins Rep. Lloyd “Ted” Poe (R.-Texas) in vocal opposition to Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson, and his campaign for a federal ban on Internet gambling.
As a July 14 on-air guest of Chris Salcedo’s morning drive show on Houston’s KSEV-700 AM, Poe was asked directly about Adelson’s campaign.
Salcedo opened the segment by laying out his own view that Adelson is out-of-bounds pressuring Congress to outlaw what he perceives as a threat to his brick-and-mortar casinos.
“Instead of competing, this Chamber of Commerce, big-government Republican, Sheldon Adelson, wants government to do his dirty work for him,” the radio show host said. “He is an example of a growing number of corporatists, who want to use government as their enforcement arm.”
Conservatism calls on business to compete, not rely on government favors, he said.
A member of the House’s Liberty Caucus, Poe said the Adelson campaign was another example of businessmen looking to the federal government to fix something that should be decided at the state-level.
The effect of the federal ban would be to disenfranchise states from the ability to regulate commerce inside their borders.
The former Texas judge said the issue of the federal ban of online gambling takes one of the few issues left that is handled at the state-level and brings it to Washington.
“I am not a big fan of it,” he said. “But, gaming is a state’s issue—states have been controlling in their state’s—let the states decide,” he said.
Human Events contacted leading members of the Liberty Caucus, Rep. Justin Amash (R.-Mich.), the caucus leader, Rep. Thomas H. Massie (R.-Ky.), Rep. Theodore. S. Yoho (R.-Fla.), Rep. E. Scott Garrett (R.-N.J.) asking for comment on the bill filed by Rep. Jason E. Chaffetz (R-Utah) called the “Restoration of America’s of the Wire Act.” Sen. Lindsay O. Graham (R.-S.C.) is the lead sponsor of the Senate companion bill.
After repeated communications with their staff, none of the men responded.
Such silence is not sitting well with some conservatives.
David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Alliance, said “It’s disappointing and confusing. Adelson’s bill is a clear federal overreach driven by dubious motives. All conservatives, especially members of the Liberty Caucus should be outraged at the prospect of such a bill.”
Williams and leaders of nine other conservative organizations sent a letter to Congress in April citing numerous concerns with the proposed national ban.
In addition to states’ rights, the letter pointed out the danger the bill proposed for Internet commerce: “Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that this bill allows the federal government to take a heavy hand in regulating the Internet, opening the door for increased Internet regulation in the future. By banning a select form of Internet commerce, the federal government is setting a troubling precedent and providing fodder to those who would like to see increased Internet regulation in the future.”
Complicating the matter for libertarians is that Chaffetz is one of their most prominent members.
Chaffetz frames the bill as an effort to reclaim congressional prerogatives after the Department of Justice Dec. 23, 2011 reversed its interpretation of the 1964 Wire Act. Previously, the Wire Act, which bans conducting gambling business on phone lines, was interpreted to also mean that gambling on the Internet was also illegal.
The Utah congressman makes the process argument, but the stubborn reality is that if passed, his legislation would see the federal government taking from states the power to decide for themselves on gaming issues.
To believe otherwise requires a willful suspension of logic. What is really going on is that a heavy GOP contributor wants the Republican Party to outlaw his what he perceives as his competition
In the fight, Adelson has gathered up a roster of strange bedfellows, such as Republican Texas Gov. Richard J. “Rick” Perry, former Republican New York governor George Pataki and 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 rumored to be 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.
In a recent Human Events interview, notorious former lobbyist Jack Abramoff called such tactics, bribery.
“It is a line that everybody is crossing all day,” he said. “Every time 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.”
Maybe 2014 is will be the year the GOP resolves once and for all whether is it a party of principles or a party of spoils.
One hundred million dollars is a lot of money for a campaigns. But, for a soul, it seems cheap.