It would be hard to find a stronger supporter of the Tenth Amendment in Congress than House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). He has spent his career fighting against the federal government encroachment on the states. But now one of the Republican Party’s biggest donors has come asking for a favor that tramples on everything Rep. Goodlatte professes to believe in. Supporters of limited constitutional government are asking: will Goodlatte go wobbly?
Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson has given so much money to the GOP presidential aspirants are traveling to his casino hotel on “The Strip” to get in the good graces of the casino mogul. He personally fueled the Newt Gingrich for president campaign and has kept the coffers of Karl Rove’s political operations full. Now Adleson is asking his friends in Congress to limit his competition by outlawing the ability of states of legalize online gaming for their residents.
Some Republicans have already sold their soul to help in the quest to help the donor. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Jason Chaffetz have introduced legislation that would overturn state laws in Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada. It would also override the laws in other states that sell lottery tickets online. They claim their efforts are based on their positions as opponents of gambling but the fine print of their legislation show more is at play. The bill would do nothing about the hundreds of gambling sites based overseas that are readily assessable to anyone with a compute or table. It only applies to the states.
John Pappas, the Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance, has noted that, “Every Congress to consider internet gaming legislation has preserved the right of states to protect its citizens through a system that is accountable to regulators and the government. Attempting to re-write history through a piece of legislation that prohibits states from enacting these safeguards represents the worst kind of crony capitalism that favors a mega political campaign donor over what’s in the best interest of the states and their consumers.”
There have already been hearings in both the House Government Reform Committee and the House Judiciary Committee, which Goodlatte chairs. In his testimony before the hearing, Chairman Goodlatte noted the tension between his personal opposition to gambling and his support for the Tenth Amendment saying “we must explore ways to protect the rights of states to prevent unwanted Internet gambling from creeping across their borders and into their states….there is also another states’ rights dynamic that we must acknowledge, and that is what to do about states that want to regulate and permit Internet gambling within their own borders. Some states have already legalized online gambling. Thus, any update to the Wire Act will need to address how to handle both the states that have already enacted laws allowing online gambling and any states that would want to do so in the future. ”
That’s the problem. Adelson and his supporters do not care about the Tenth Amendment. They are seeking to trample on it. Chairman Goodlatte has acknowledged the elephant in the room. You cannot overturn the ability of states to legalize online gaming for their residents and support the Tenth Amendment at the same time.
If Mr. Goodlatte and other supporters of limited government are true to their principles, they will hold firm and oppose Adelson and his ilk. If they are willing to sell their beliefs to the highest bidder, it will be a sad day for the Constitution.