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The GOP Should Not Use Their Power To Shield Big Donors From Competition


Crooked Hillary, as Donald Trump so effectively characterized her, lost the election in part because that name stuck. It stuck because there was truth in it. The Clinton Foundation’s shenanigans were shady, and included selling access and influence. It turned off even die-hard Democrats.

Republicans would be smart to not emulate her example. If the GOP proves itself to be the flip side of the same old coin, the next elections won’t turn out as well for them as the one that just concluded. This is why it’s so important for Republicans to not allow billionaire casino kingpin Sheldon Adelson to hang a For Sale sign around their necks.

Adelson owns marque casino properties in Las Vegas, including the well-known Sands. He’s made a fortune off gaming and become one of the heaviest-hitting political campaign donors in the country. There’s nothing wrong with either thing—getting rich or contributing to the campaigns of political candidates one favors. Where Adelson breaks bad is using his tremendous resources to pressure lawmakers to do him a favor, like a mafia don calling in a chit.

That favor is passage of something called the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, a bill that might as well have been written by Adelson’s consiglieri. The original Wire Act, which dates back to 1961, targeted illegal ”off-the-books” interstate betting on sports. But the disingenuously titled Restoration of America’s Wire Act targets legal online gaming that Adelson opposes.

Do It For My Children

Adelson—a casino baron—says he’s opposed to online gaming because he’s worried about its harmful effects on “the children.” In fact, he’s worried about the harmful effects it’s having on his bottom line.

Adelson’s casinos are “bricks and mortar” operations.  He has invested millions in physical properties that take millions more to maintain. Even though many of these costs can be written off as tax-deductible business expenses, they are expenses nonetheless. Online alternatives, in contrast, can do business on a relative shoestring and compete (gasp!) with a glitzy multi-million-dollar operation like the Sands using not much more than a server and a few PCs.

They are also convenient. One need not travel to Vegas and pay a guy like Adelson $250 a night for a room and $10 for a mini-bar can of Coke. Just as online booksellers like and e-readers like Kindle have cut into the profits of bricks-and-mortar bookstores, online gaming has cut a slice out of bricks-and-mortars casinos.

But Adelson isn’t exactly going broke. He has an estimated $33.6 billion in his coffers, according to Forbes magazine, making him richer than The Donald. But apparently, it isn’t enough for the aging Adelson. Like a James Bond villain, he wants it all. That would be okay—or at least, his right to go after it—if he got it without using hit men to get it for him.

Seriously, Pay to Play Again?

Those “hit men” being Senate Republicans like Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose former chief of staff Steven Law just happens to head the political action committee funded almost entirely by Adelson.

That PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, recently received a very generous gift from Adelson, to the tune of $20 million, which constitutes the bulk of the PAC’s resources. It’s mighty suspicious-looking that the Senate Leadership Fund (and Cotton, Graham, and McConnell) became ardent champions of the resurrected Restore America’s Wire Act right after Adelson’s check cleared.

The old bill, also championed by Graham (along with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah) never got out of committee because of Tenth Amendment issues, among other problems. States like New Jersey complained to the Justice Department that Adelson’s bill (whoops, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act) would effectively outlaw their own in-house lottery operations as well as legal (in their states) privately conducted online gaming, a source of much-needed tax revenue. They said the RAWA was a case of federal overreach.

Even Democrats agreed with this reasoning. President Obama’s Department of Justice ruled that the ‘61 Wire Act did not apply to sanctioned (legal) gaming within states that have decided to allow it. But, like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s perennial Terminator character, the RAWA is back.

A rehashed version of the bill popped up in late September, introduced by Cotton, literally days after Adelson’s donation. And it’s Republicans who are pushing this anti-states-rights legislation — Republicans who’ve received a pile of money from a guy who has a huge financial interest in its passage. It doesn’t look good. In fact, it looks very bad.

It looks a lot like the Clinton Foundation’s shenanigans, which arguably cost Madame Secretary the election. A large portion of the voting public perceived her as a compromise candidate, bought and paid for like a high-end Vegas “escort.” If the GOP is perceived in the same light, it will have equally harsh consequences.