Just last week, Jack Abramoff – yes that Jack Abramoff – told Human Events that Sheldon Adelson’s attempts to ban online gaming is plain, political corruption. A topic Abramoff knows well. What’s more, Adelson’s pressure – that is to say, his financial support – is tipping some in the GOP to support his proposed ban.
Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) had been silent on Internet gambling right up until he introduced federal legislation to ban it, and the legislation was announced after Adelson dropped $15,000 into Graham’s election coffers. Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) – who was palling around with Adelson at a New York City gala earlier this summer – knows full well that Adelson single-handedly kept alive Newt Gingrich’s failed 2012 presidential bid. The governor has also been on the receiving end of Adelson’s political support.
Adelson isn’t just any billionaire. He puts his money where his mind is or, perhaps one could say, where his interests lie. In 2012 alone, he donated around $100 million to Republican candidates and causes. His largesse coupled with his stated willingness to “spend whatever it takes” to see his federal ban passed has many Republicans scrambling to win what has been dubbed the “Adelson primary” and be the next big beneficiary of Adelson’s political generosity.
Adelson has launched a high profile campaign to protect profits at his casinos from online competition. Adelson fears the competition from states legalizing online gaming, and he believes it is suicidal for casino interests not to seek a ban. Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey have legalized online gaming and nearly a dozen more states are considering following suit. So Adelson launched an astroturf coalition, hired lobbyists to write legislation, and dug deep into his political connections.
A billionaire who wants the federal government to usurp the right of states to regulate gaming within their own borders in order to shield his own business interests should be anathema to conservatives. Sadly, rather than the unified front of conservative opposition one might expect, the poseurs are being separated from the principled.
Governor Rick Perry fell hard. Despite routinely giving rousing speeches railing against federal government intrusion into state affairs, the 2016 presidential hopeful sent a letter to Congress imploring them to pass Adelson’s gaming ban. He now seems to believe that Texas needs the federal government to protect it from gambling occurring a thousand miles from its own border.
States’ rights have long been a defining principle for Republicans, and an unequivocal contrast with the Democrats’ penchant for federal government intervention. It’s hard to find a Republican who at one time or another hasn’t preached federalism and railed against federal overreach, especially since the 2008 election. Republicans have found states’ rights a particularly comfortable perch from which to combat President Obama on everything from Obamacare to environmental regulations, education, and property rights.
There is, however, one Texan who is standing his ground on the proper role of the federal government — Congressman Ted Poe. During a recent interview on the Chris Salcedo Show, Congressman Poe was asked his opinion on a federal ban on gambling. While he personally isn’t enthusiastic about gambling, he understands that the Tenth Amendment doesn’t have a clause allowing for the personal opinion of those in Congress. He stated without caveat that, “It’s a states’ rights issue. Leave the states alone federal government and let them deal with it however they want to deal with it but not have the federal government rush in and try to control gaming in the entire country.”
While it is comforting to know there is at least one Republican who still supports the Constitution, one may not be enough to stop Adelson, and one lone member certainly isn’t enough to save the integrity of conservatives in Congress.
Ten conservative organizations recently sent a letter to Congress opposing the federal ban. They pointed out the dangers of such a federal overreach and the implications of Washington regulating the internet. But, where are all the Republicans elected to Congress claiming to oppose cronyism and support states’ rights?
What of the Republican Study Committee, the supposed conscience of House Republicans? Silent. The libertarian-leaning Liberty Caucus, chaired by Rep. Justin Amash? Silent. And the Tenth Amendment Caucus whose ostensible mission is to protect states’ rights? Also silent.
Be it with active support or shrinking silence, conservatives who abandon their principles in exchange for short term fundraising will be inflicting long term damage to the liberty movement. Conservatives’ moral authority will be permanently undermined in the never-ending battle against Democrats’ endless power-grab schemes.
It might seem easy to look the other way when the rich billionaire is your rich billionaire and the issue is gambling. But there is a long line of left-wing billionaires with their own wish lists on everything from gun control to the environment. Adelson shouldn’t get his way — Republican cronyism is still cronyism.
Jerry Rogers is vice president at the Institute for Liberty, and the founder of Capitol Allies, an independent, nonpartisan effort that promotes entrepreneurship, economic growth, and free enterprise.