More people thrown out of RAWA meeting than were allowed to stay

michelle-minton-sheldon-adelson-rawa-meetingAnti-online gambling legislation appears to be losing its appeal for US federal lawmakers, according to a libertarian thinktank.

Michelle Minton (pictured, in blue), a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), published a blog post on Wednesday detailing her experience at a recent ‘Policy Forum’ organized by The Keelen Group, a lobbying firm hired by Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson (pictured, in black) to promote the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), which seeks to ban most forms of online gambling in the US.

Besides Keelen Group members, the event’s list of speakers included former Congressman Connie Mack and former House Republican Conference chairman J.C. Watts, both of whom are being paid to lobby on RAWA’s behalf. Despite CEI’s history of bashing RAWA, Minton was able to wrangle an invite to the Policy Forum.

Upon her arrival at Keelen HQ, Minton found just three other attendees, one of whom was from the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), one of the groups that signed an anti-RAWA letter last month. After taking her seat, Minton was approached by Darryl Nirenberg, the Adelson lobbyist who was responsible for drafting RAWA’s original text.

Initially, Minton says Nirenberg was welcoming, until he learned of her CEI connection, after which “his expression changed to a smile that I’d say bordered on contempt.” Nirenberg then went and talked to someone else, after which a Keelen staffer informed Minton that the gathering was “a staff only meeting” and that Minton would have to leave.

Minton left without protest, and the TPA guy was similarly ejected one minute later. Minton says she later learned that one of the two remaining attendees was also herded to the exit after being exposed as a PR consultant working against a federal online gambling ban. Which left all of one Congressional staffer to listen to the five Adelson-hired lobbyists make their pitch.

Minton concedes that there may have any number of good reasons why Washington pols may have chosen to give the meeting a miss. But the lack of interest could well suggest that politicians know a dead duck when they see one.

Concerns remain that Adelson’s minions will push pols to approve an online gambling moratorium, which would allow the three states currently offering regulated online gambling to carry on, while preventing other states from joining the party. Rumors of this RAWA-lite plan have been floating around since early summer but most observers don’t see this effort gaining any more traction than RAWA.

New concerns were mounted this month after Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) announced he would seek the House Speaker position being vacated by John Boehner. Chaffetz introduced the House of Representatives’ version of RAWA and his control of the House would theoretically allow him to push harder for RAWA’s passage. But the issue remains a fringe concern for most GOP pols, who fear a backlash from Tea Party types for supporting such a blatant example of crony capitalism.