Prohibition's back.
Well, it's trying to make a comeback, anyhow.
Not of booze, this time.
Of online gambling.
Certain Republican lawmakers - including presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jason Chaffetz of Utah - are pushing for a national ban on online gambling via something called the Restoration of America's Wire Act, aka HR 707 (see here).
Just as the "Patriot" act has little do with patriotism, RAWA has little to do with restoring anything. But a great deal to do with prohibiting things. Or rather, protecting the financial interests of wealthy GOP campaign contributors such as Vegas casino baron Sheldon Adelson.
The bill would prevent states from allowing online gambling within their borders, irrespective of the will of the people within those states. It's a major federal power grab and an assault upon the Tenth Amendment that - ironically - isn't being pushed by Democrats this time.
Republican lawmakers claim to be motivated by a desire to restrict an activity they view as harmful, particularly to children. But is it coincidental that the lawmakers taking this line are lining up with the financial interests (and campaign contributions) of the billionaire owner of the Las Vegas Sands and other "brick and mortar" casino interests?
Adelson doesn't oppose gambling, per se.
Just gambling that isn't profitable for him.
In addition to his seven figure support (yes, literally) for GOP candidates, Adelson also founded a PAC called the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling and put on his payroll political hacks such as former NY Republican Governor George Pataki, and partnered with the evangelical Christian leader Ralph Reed - playing on the Christian right's "moral" opposition to suit his own agenda.
Reed, it may be recalled, was caught in bed with the now-disgraced uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff back in the early 2000s.
Adelson has even buddied up with Democratic Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, dangling the prospect of not supporting his GOP opponent in the next election in return for Reid's support of his anti-online gambling agenda.
Reid claims the casino mogul is " not in this for the money."
Which is kind of like saying a Great White shark isn't in it for the seal dinner.
Adelson is putting his billions behind H.R. 707, which is putting enormous pressure on rank and file GOP lawmakers to support the proposed legislation because of its sponsorship by the GOP leadership - which fears the king-making (and king breaking) power of money-men such as Sheldon Adelson.
One of the few who appears to be resisting this pressure is Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who personally opposes gambling (in the same way that some people personally oppose drinking alcohol) but appears to understand that while gaming may be a vice, like drinking alcohol, it isn't a crime. He has publicly state that he prefers to leave this matter to the judgment of the individual states on Tenth Amendment grounds; that it is not properly a matter for the federal government.
This is what the Constitution intended. The Tenth Amendment recognizes that - as the saying goes - what plays in Peoria may not play in New York. And vice versa. Tastes, public opinion, conceptions of what's ok - vary from place to place. Thus, in Alaska, one does not need a permit to carry a handgun. In Arizona, there are are drive-through liquor stores. Several states have "medical marijuana" laws.
One size does not fit all.
America is a a big country and part of what makes it a great country is regional variety.
Moreover, it is possible Goodlatte recognizes that if RAWA passes, it will set a precedent that will empower the federal government to ban other things, not just online gambling. For example, online sales of guns and ammunition.
Ironically, Rep. Chafetz was once upon a time a member of the House Tenth Amendment Caucus - and Graham likes to style himself a "conservative" Republican.
Yet both men are carrying water for legislation that will greatly empower the federal government- and potentially set a very dangerous precedent for future federal over-reach.
If Graham, Chafetz and the Republican leadership were taking a principled stand against gambling as such, that would be one thing. But - as they teach in journalism school - follow the money. No gambling that doesn't threaten the profits of Sheldon Adelson, et al, is threatened.
Just that gambling that does.
As the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live used to say, how convenient.
Dangerous, too.
Kudos are due to Bob Goodlatte and other Republicans who - so far - have not allowed their faithfulness to constitutional principles to buckle under the weight of Sheldon Adelson's bags of campaign cash.
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