The Hearing Sheldon Adelson Bought? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Hearing Sheldon Adelson Bought?

So what is the purpose of a congressional hearing? To increase understanding or buttress a political case the majority always intended to make?

As always, it depends on who is paying. In the case of a hearing now tentatively set for March 25 before the House Crime Subcommittee on Judiciary, Sheldon Adelson is the payer, and the witness list — for now — has been constructed to elucidate Adelson’s views to the exclusion of all others.

Adelson is a Las Vegas casino magnate and the world’s eighth-richest man. He used to be a Democrat until the Democratic Party “left me.” Now, he is one of the largest funders of Republican candidates.

He doesn’t agree with Republicans on everything — he says he is “liberal on several social issues” — but he says he is with them on the big stuff.

But the truth is, when it threatens his business interests, he remains with the Democrats on some of the big stuff and with conservatives on some of the social issues.

Which is part of why he decided to buy a hearing recently to discuss potential congressional action to outlaw Internet wagering nationwide.

The hearing will deal with H.R. 707, whose sponsors claim it would “restore” the 1961 Wire Act to its original intent. The Wire Act was pushed through during the Kennedy administration to combat telephone-based sports wagering run by the Mafia, which, of course, recognized no state borders. This would be applied to casino games and target otherwise-legitimate businesses engaging in commerce states — not Washington — should decide whether to permit.

Adelson didn’t actually buy a hearing. He merely contributed to the campaigns of those who called it and counted on them to take care of the witness list. And they did take care of it — four witnesses so far, all called by Republicans and all opposed to Internet gambling.

When Americans think of congressional hearings — to the extent they ever do — they think of a broad array of witnesses providing diverse viewpoints to educate lawmakers on all the pros and cons of a particular issue. This is rarely the case. Too often, hearings are high-tech lynchings with the questions — and answers — scripted, the gotcha moments carefully rehearsed and the outcomes, of course, predetermined.

There is a witness the committee could call… one it has been encouraged to call by a number of Republicans. That witness is Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Minton, whom I worked with at CEI, has staked out a key niche in the policy community. She asks why things must be illegal if they are not harming anyone.

In the case of Internet gambling, she argues any regulation should be left to the states, who already operate lotteries, license casinos and oversee bingo, horse racing and the like. She says evidence from around the world shows well-regulated legal Internet gambling can overcome fears of exposure to minors, overuse by those who become addicted and gambling in states that continue to prohibit it. Outlawing it, on the other hand, drives gambling underground into the hands of organized crime.

But the larger point is a voice conservatives need to win elections is not being heard. All those years libertarian-leaning conservatives turned up at CPAC to give Ron Paul victory in the presidential straw poll should tell us something. These voters may not be enough to put either side over the top, but they lean to the right and they’re willing to fight. They come to Washington to be heard in a meaningless poll. How much more would they do if their representatives in the policy community — and Michelle Minton certainly is one — were taken seriously.

It won’t hurt Sheldon Adelson to allow the counter argument to be heard. He’ll still control the votes. But it would do the right a lot of good to acknowledge these would-be friends in its midst and, if it wants to be taken seriously as the party of limited government, to answer the question Minton poses. If adults are not harming anyone, why can’t they do in their home what they wish to do with their own money?

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