Happening Now: Hearing on Gambling Bills and Crony Capitalism

<p>Flickr – Roxanne Ready</p> (casino)

Flickr – Roxanne Ready


The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), is  holding a hearing right now on the “Restore America’s Wire Act,” a bill that would ban states from legalizing online gambling.

As Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty, a conservative policy advocacy group, opines in the Washington Examiner, there are a number of red flags raised by this hearing and bill. In his words, this measure “tramples on the Tenth Amendment” by limiting states’ jurisdiction over their own affairs, including gambling.

From our perspective, the bigger concern is the price we pay for money’s outsized influence on our political system. There has been a bipartisan push to prevent the bill’s passage, but brick-and-mortar casino magnates, led by megadonor Sheldon Adelson, have taken aim at online gambling in order to protect their own interests.

Langer calls this bill crony capitalism, and he is probably right. Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, have donated millions of dollars to super PACs in the past, and his support can be vital for a Republican candidate. Adelson has long been seen as a kind of GOP kingmaker, and some candidates, like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have sought his support by introducing anti-online gambling measures. As CNN points out, Chaffetz was one of the members of Congress to reintroduce the House version of the bill “backed by Sheldon Adelson” earlier this year.

There is a problem when we can accurately connect a proposed piece of legislation to a single donor. This legislative effort is a brazen attempt to cut competitors out of the market, and it reflects the power money can have over policymaking.

This is why it’s so critical to pass actionable solutions to produce a more representative democracy, through citizen funding programs and stricter lobbying restrictions. Our government can no longer be said to be of the people when so few have so much power to influence.