Senator Lindsey Graham Going to the RAWA Well Again

United States politics are terrible. I mean, all politics are awful, but politics here in the U.S. are just the worst – anyone watching the current presidential campaigns would pick up on this immediately. What makes things especially bad is how laws are created. Americans of my generation are familiar with the old “Schoolhouse Rock” cartoon, “I’m Just a Bill,” but that’s just fantasy. Laws today are put into action through backroom dealings and related bullshit. Case in point: Senator Lindsey Graham, coming off of a disastrous Republican presidential campaign, has snuck anti-online poker language into a completely unrelated bill simply because that is how things work and because he can.

Poker players may know Graham best as Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson’s hand maiden in the U.S. Senate. Adelson is a billionaire Republican mega-donor; politicians have been known to cater to his wishes so they can catch the scent of his sweet, sweet cash. Adelson, as this site’s readers very well know, was the driving force behind the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), a bill which aims to ban all online gambling in the U.S., including online gambling in the three states – Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware – where it is currently legal and regulated. Senator Graham introduced RAWA in the Senate in order to make Daddy Adelson happy.

Senator Lindsey Graham

Senator Lindsey Graham

None of the attempts to advance RAWA in Congress have been successful. The first effort was arguably the most frightening, as Adelson tried to use his political connections to get RAWA included in the cromnibus spending bill. Fortunately, he failed (if he had succeeded, it would have been entirely possible for it to get through without any sort of debate, not unlike the UIGEA in 2006). Graham’s counterpart in the House, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, held two hearings in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which he chairs, but they were both jokes. The first had a panel filled with his own hand-picked witnesses, and was quite obviously just a farcical dog-and-pony show. The second saw a couple more neutral witnesses testify and went so badly for Chaffetz that he actually left the hearing for a while.

But now that Graham’s presidential bid is over (and seeing who the presumptive Republican nominee is makes me kind of wish Graham had done better, as frightening as that sounds), he is back on his RAWA crusade. On April 21st, the United States Senate Committee on Appropriations filed its annual Appropriations Bill for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and “related agencies.” Graham is a member of said committee. As such, he got the following small paragraph inserted into the bill’s comments:

Internet Gambling- Since 1961, the Wire Act has prohibited nearly all forms of gambling over interstate wires, including the Internet. However, beginning in 2011, certain States began to permit Internet gambling. The Committee notes that the Wire Act did not change in 2011. The Committee also notes that the Supreme Court of the United States has stated that `criminal laws are for courts, not for the Government, to construe.’ Abramski v. U.S., 134 S.Ct. 2259, 2274 (2014) (internal citation omitted).

First noticed by Gambling Compliance, it seems rather innocent. After all, it is just an incorrect statement that does nothing to create or change any laws. It is really just Graham being allowed to take a few lines in which to whine, or at least give Sheldon Adelson a reason to give him a smile.

But according to, this little move is the start of Graham’s attempt to get RAWA – or at least something resembling RAWA – passed without allowing anyone to argue against it. Now, I would normally never reference an extreme-right site like for serious news as the site is littered with anti-Muslim, anti-brown, anti-Obama articles and rhetoric, but the site did shockingly publish what seems to be a reasonable article on this topic and the author does at least seem to know how the politics of this sort of thing works. Thus, I’m going to suck it up and let that site explain what Graham is trying to do here:

What they plan to do is to get these two bills [the Senate Appropriations Bill and the corresponding House Appropriations Bill] passed with an accompanying report calling for the law to be changed to ban all gaming and gambling.  Then they will add the language into a conference report after the bills pass the House and the Senate.  This is called an “air drop,” because the House and Senate will never get to vote on this provision as an amendment.

The legislative language will be buried in a giant conference report that will be presented to the House and Senate as a take-it-or-leave it proposition.  Insiders use this trick when they want to get something passed that does not have majority support.  They attach an unpopular special interest earmark to an appropriations bill in a way that makes it impossible for opponents to strip it out.

The Senate and House rules don’t allow for a Representative or Senator to strip out provisions, because of the way the Senate and House deal with appropriations bills.  What will happen is that the Adelson Earmark will appear in the bill and it will be too late to do anything about it.

Again, considering the source, I wouldn’t automatically trust the above description, but because the information it relays is not opinion, it seems legit. Besides, even the National Enquirer has gotten a couple stories right in the past.

It wasn’t exactly the same, but a similar tactic was used when the UIGEA was passed in 2006. It was tacked on to the SAFE Port Act at the eleventh hour, a piece of legislation that was going to pass no matter what. A couple legislators stood up and argued against the UIGEA, but they knew it was a futile effort. Again, what Graham is doing isn’t an exact equivalent, but the concept is close: hide the poker ban in a much larger bill that will shield it from scrutiny. In this case, it sounds like a much slower process than with the UIGEA. Graham is playing the long con.


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