As we head into what’s commonly referred to as the “Lame Duck” session of Congress, it appears that Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling is racheting up their rhetoric. There have been several rumblings about the Restore America’s Wire Act (RAWA) getting a committee hearing, maybe even getting out of committee and coming to a vote in either the House or the Senate…or both. More of the Coalition’s members are speaking up and out via radio, YouTube, and, of course, the Coalition’s websites. The general feeling seems to be that all of Sheldon’s per$ua$ion is about to “pay off.” But ask yourself this – does it really make sense to do all this NOW, rather than wait until the new (more Republican) Congress is seated, re-introducing RAWA, and having a go of it then? There’s a slim-to-none chance of it passing this year (even the best scenario shows a potential Obama veto with no chance of a 2/3rds vote to override it).
So why not wait?
Here’s why - I think he’s taking the room’s temperature. He knows he can make it “warmer.” This is a smart move by Adelson
Face it – if the last election didn’t convince you, money talks. And what Adelson has more of than just about anyone (‘cept maybe a dozen people in the world) is money. And he knows how to use it, politically.
Just last week his right-hand man Andy Abboud was asked how much money Sheldon pumped into the off-year election cycle…and, of course, Andy said he’d never tell. And he doesn’t have to – the new regulations don’t require disclosure, and it’s no secret that millions…maybe billions…get spent in these “dark money” campaigns. In Florida, it was Sheldon’s moolah fighting against medicinal marijuana, and he won (even though the YES campaign got 58% of the vote, 60% was needed).
Even though the new Congress will be in Republican control, that fact alone doesn’t lend itself to defining or defending this issue. Many in the GOP can’t agree on the question. One op-ed in The Hill called for “more consistency” from those who advocate for RAWA and “states-rights” at the same time, and another conservative publication cited similar problems with the whole idea of RAWA:
First, it is considered bad government to so blatantly do the bidding of a contributor. Second, members committed to federalism see states making their own laws and regulation of online gambling and do not want to feds to tamper with the states with Soviet-style bans issued from Washington. Finally, the more libertarian members are uncomfortable with the federal government directly lifestyle and recreation choices.
I just LOVE the first argument. But face it – since when does Congress care how it looks? And seriously, how much does the public care how craven they are? We give ‘em an 11% approval rating, and then re-elect 96% of the bastards. Perhaps we deserve it?
Anyway, here’s how I see it going down. By getting some action NOW on RAWA, Adelson could see where his support was strong, and where, with some per$ua$ion, he could get enough support to make RAWA a real possibility. Perhaps offer a concession to poker players and add another carve-out? That buys a few more votes. Offer $omething $weeter? That buys a few more. And you know certain politicians (as in most) can be bought.
How much money could Adelson spend to get something like RAWA passed into law? He said it himself – whatever it takes.
And he has what it takes, money-wise.
Those of us who consider ourselves poker advocates realize the seriousness of Adelson’s position. It’s a real threat, and how it plays out in the next few weeks might tell us more about how it will play out in 2015. It might embolden Congress to pass other legislation to "pay back" or "reward" their financial supporters.
I fear America will see the new way a “bill becomes law,” as that bill gets the $upport of other bills, mostly fifties and hundreds.