- - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson sanctimoniously demanding a federal monopoly on the exploitation of fashionable debaucheries is like a dog walking on his hind legs. It is done awkwardly, but you are surprised to see it done at all.

Mr. Adelson has accumulated a net worth of $33.6 billion. He is a casino magnate. His stupendous wealth comes from gratifying sordid hormonal cravings: instant riches and creature comforts worthy of King Louis XIV.

It may be that the casino czar sheds a tear for the collateral damage of his vulgar enterprises: personal bankruptcies; broken hearts; shattered families; and dissipated lives. But if he does, the tear dries quickly.

Mr. Adelson fears that online gambling could diminish his hormonal-fueled profits. In the old days when merchants worried about competition, they privately conspired. Adam Smith recounts in Wealth of Nations: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices…”

But that strategy for self-enrichment is old-fashioned in our Golden Age of Crony Capitalism besotted with legalized bribery to obtain protectionist legislation. Mr. Adelson followed the political gospel of Ohio Senator and campaign finance maestro for President William McKinley, Mark Hanna. “There are two things that are important in politics,” he explained. The first is money and I can’t remember what the second one is.”

The casino billionaire thus donated lavishly to support Republican candidates for the House and Senate to seduce their support for the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), aka, the Ultra-Enrichment of Sheldon Adelson Act. The bill would prohibit online gambling—a throwback to government paternalism epitomized by the Prohibition Era. Like Lord Byron’s Julia whispering “I will ne’er consent—consented,” Republican Senators Marco Rubio (FL) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) consented to champion RAWA. The twin solons made no Counter-Reformation-like fig leaf to conceal RAWA’s direct boost to Mr. Adelson’s spellbinding fortune.

But the Sheldon Adelson enrichment bill has sputtered during the 114th Congress. Last November’s elections sharply rebuked both Republican and Democratic Party patricians for bowing to establishment interests represented by him. In a single stroke, President-elect Donald Trump destroyed the money-fueled Clinton and Bush political dynasties.

Adelson now hopes to enact RAWA with a sneak attack during the Lame Duck session of Congress. On September 20, 2016, he donated a hefty $20 million to the Senate Republican Leadership Fund, a Super PAC that had promoted the elections of incumbent Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Graham. The next day, the “Gang of Three” introduced a new Senate bill, S.3376, a virtual carbon copy of RAWA that would likewise ban internet gambling. Like thieves in the night, they hope to hide the bill in a massive “must-pass” Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded before the Lame Duck session expires on January 3, 2017. Companion machinations are afoot in the House of Representatives to accomplish the same Sheldon Adelson enrichment objective. That provoked Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) to write House Speaker Paul Ryan: “We…request that you bring a ‘clean CR’ funding bill to the floor for a vote before December 9. The potential inclusion of language relating to issues such as…the Restoration of America’s Wire Act…runs afoul of regular order. [If]… a united Republican government wants to address these issues…it should include committee hearings and markups, floor amendments, and conference reports—not language hidden inside must-pass legislation during a lame duck session of Congress.”

Sunshine is said to be the best of disinfectants. If RAWA were exposed to public debate, it would wither and die. Sheldon Adelson should be sent packing like the Clintons and Bushes by the 114th Congress.

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