The message sent by the American people on Election Day was clear — no more business as usual. Yet rumors on Capitol Hill persist that one of the GOP’s favorite billionaires, Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson, may be in line for an outrageous, anti-free market legislative favor to compensate for his last minute infusion of cash to help save the Republican Senate.
It has been nearly two years since Mr. Adelson began his drive to overturn state laws that allow for Internet gambling within their own borders. New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada all have laws that would be rolled back by the Adelson bill — a clear violation of the Tenth Amendment. Now, Adelson is trying to put a cutthroat federal ban on the online gaming industry.
Adelson is no anti-gambling moralist. The bill was designed with the intent of protecting his brick and mortar casino business from competition. Known as “Restore America’s Wire Act,” or “RAWA,” the bill was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham shortly before the launch of his quixotic presidential campaign. Adelson, not surprisingly, held Graham’s first fundraiser.
In the House, Rep. Jason Chaffetz introduced the bill at Adelson’s behest. But principle soon got in the way of corporate cronyism. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte is a stalwart defenders of the Tenth Amendment and recognizing the bill for what it is, refused to move it.
Chaffetz, however, convened his own hearing, which may go down in history as one of the most embarrassing congressional hearings ever held. Both conservatives and liberals tore RAWA to shreds.
Led by conservative stalwart Rep. Nick Mulvaney, opponents tied witnesses in knots when they were asked to distinguish efforts to overturn state laws regarding gambling between those that seek to destroy state’s permissibility of gun rights. Supportive witnesses were left stammering and stuttering, and then other members piled on. Some members noted that their states allowed the sale of lottery tickets over the Internet and that the law would ban that. Needless to say, the hearing was a disaster for the bill’s proponents.
While RAWA appeared lifeless and moribund, in late September Sen. Tom Cotton revived the effort. The Washington Post connected the dots writing, “Adelson gave $20 million to a super PAC with close ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) [and then] three GOP senators introduced legislation that would effectively ban online gambling — a measure Adelson has long pushed for.”
Adelson subsequently wrote more checks to save the GOP Senate majority, and now sources suggest the Senate Leadership is looking to return the favor by inserting his RAWA legislation into a year-end spending bill.
Donald Trump’s election was, if nothing else, a repudiation of this type of politics. Conservatives must not let idly stand and let insiders play business as usual — especially when their business involves trampling on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The time is now to kill RAWA once and for all.