By Jack Inglewood
Clash Daily Guest Contributor
Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson is used to getting what he wants, but his latest demand does lasting damage to the Constitution and the idea of federalism.
As an owner of a brick and mortar casino empire, the growing number of states that are legalizing Internet gaming for their citizens threatens Adelson’s business model. New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada have made Internet gambling legal and other states like Pennsylvania appear ready to do the same. Rather than convince 50 state legislatures about his claim that Internet gambling is dangerous for children, he has turned to his allies in Congress to do his dirty work.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) have introduced “Restore America’s Wire Act,” legislation that would overturn state laws and prohibit other states from legalizing Internet gaming for their residents. Chaffetz, who was at one point a member of the House Tenth Amendment Caucus, has turned his back on the Constitution to pursue a federal prohibition. In fact, Chaffetz’s position on the bill turns the concept of federalism on its head. He has said that if states want to legalize Internet gaming, they need to come to Washington first.
Sen. Lindsey Graham makes an even stranger argument. He contends, without any justification whatsoever, that legalized and state regulated states Internet gambling funds terrorism. Fear mongering is Graham’s strong suit.
Despite the brazen effort to help a political contributor, political observers belief the Adelson effort has legs. The House of Representatives has already held two hearings on the legislation. One of the hearings was in Chaffetz’ committee and the witness list was stacked with anti-gambling zealots.
A more principled member of Congress, Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-VA), chairs the House Judiciary Committee. He has a long history of opposition to gambling but an even longer history of support for the Tenth Amendment. But even Goodlatte raised the specter of using the Internet Commerce clause to take another cut at the Tenth Amendment. You can’t make a more liberal argument than that.
One would hope that members of Congress from states that have legalized Internet gambling would revolt at the thought that the federal government would trample on a states’ right. Yet, as of today, there are only a handful of members willing to stand on principle.
Both liberals and conservatives have banded together in stating the case for a federalism approach on this issue. Liberal John Conyers (D-MI) spoke out against the ban. Conyers correctly noted that “States should be allowed to decide this question for themselves, and we should not take any action that would overturn such state laws.”
Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) also spoke out in strong support of federalism. Poe argued “the Ranking member said it best, ‘we’re all for states’ rights, some of the time’ and I try to be for states’ rights, federalism, all of the time. It is an issue that is important to me. “ Congress needs more guys like Ted Poe and less sunshine federalists like Graham and Chaffetz.
Federalism is the idea that power resides in the people and the states. Let the people decide and don’t let Sheldon Adelson buy his way into convincing federal politicians to abandon federalism and the Constitution.
Jack Inglewood is a conservative activist who spent a decade working in Washington, DC.