Anyone who doubts the clear quid pro quo between US politicians and their corporate money men need look no further than the latest federal effort to ban online gambling.
Last week saw the introduction of S.3376, a placeholder bill filed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) that seeks to roll back the 2011 Department of Justice opinion that said the 1961 Wire Act applied only to sports betting, which paved the way for states like New Jersey to launch intrastate online gambling markets.
On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that Cotton’s bill appeared shortly after Las Vegas Sands boss Sheldon Adelson wrote a $20m check to the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Adelson’s donation represented 71% of the total funds the super PAC raised in the month of August. News of the donation came via a filing with the Federal Election Commission on Sept. 20, just one day before Cotton filed his S.3376.
Adelson has reportedly pledged to give a similar $20m to a fund supporting GOP candidates in the US House of Representatives, as well as up to $25m to another GOP super PAC founded by Chicago Cubs owner Joe Ricketts.
Adelson is one of the GOP’s biggest cash contributors but his spending in the 2016 presidential race has so far been relatively restrained compared to the estimated $150m he splashed out in 2012.
Adelson’s reticence reportedly had to do with his lack of enthusiasm for the GOP’s nominee, Donald Trump, and while Adelson has endorsed Trump and was in attendance at Monday night’s presidential debate, relations between the two men are said to be still relatively cool.
This jibes with reports that Adelson is focusing his cash on ‘down ballot’ races, i.e. senators, congressmen, governors, state legislature, etc., based on the rationale that this is where most policy battles – including online gambling – play themselves out.
In August, Adelson gave $1.5m to a fund supporting New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who co-sponsored Adelson’s previous anti-online gambling bill, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). Ayotte also attempted to link international online gambling sites with drug traffickers at a 2013 Senate hearing into online gambling.
Cotton’s S.3376 will get its shot at becoming law during the lame duck session of Congress that will commence following the November election and conclude shortly before Christmas. Previous efforts to pass RAWA went nowhere and odds are heavily against Cotton’s bill faring any better in the fractious Capitol. Still, with an estimated net worth of over $30b, Adelson can keep this game going for a long while to come.