Sheldon Adelson’s Money Line to CSIG: Robert Uithoven and J3 Strategies
Sheldon Adelson’s attempts to jam the “Restoration of America’s Wire Act” (RAWA) bill down the throats of the American public might not be working out as planned, but that doesn’t mean that Adelson’s attempts to buy a government of his liking are likely to stop any time soon.
The Adelson-funded Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) has been the outlet for a smear campaign designed to sway public opinion about online gaming since its inception. Through its dissemination of falsehoods and misconceptions, CSIG has managed to attract a small amount of public notice but appears to have failed in achieving Adelson’s ultimate goal, the passage of RAWA or a similar bill.
Still, CSIG itself is instructive in many ways, being a fine example of Adelson’s buy-your-legislation practices at work. Exactly how CSIG came to be isn’t exactly hidden; Adelson and Las Vegas Sands retained the services of Nevada lobbyists Robert Uithoven, Ryan Hamilton, and their j3 Strategies, Ltd lobbying firm. Though Adelson spends tens of millions of dollars annually on political causes and candidates dear to his wallet, he keeps the control of the spending close — it’s seldom more than a bounce or two from Adelson to the people and groups he funds.
That’s the way it is with CSIG. Uithoven himself sits on the anti-online gambling group’s board of directors, and even appeared, wearing that CSIG hat, at a California online poker hearing in June. Advance notice of Uithoven’s appearance made no direct mention of he and his lobbying firm’s connection to Adelson, though Adelson’s sponsorship of CSIG was already well known. Not that the omission fooled anyone at the California hearing; as Assembly GO Committee member Frank Bigelow asked Uithoven, late in the hearing’s proceedings, “Isn’t sunlight the best disinfectant?”
Adelson and CSIG aren’t just any clients at j3 Strategies, either; the two (or one, with the other just the related spending outlet) are probably the largest share of Uithoven’s and j3 Strategies’ revenue stream. The two entities are #1 and #2 on j3 Strategies list of “Represented Clients,” with that page showing a honkin’ big photo of the Venetian, just in case anyone missed all the rest of the clues. Lesson to be learned: When you’re getting a lot of money from Sheldon, flaunt it.
If the client list for j3 Strategies doesn’t totally reek of pay-to-play politics and crony capitalism, you can bet the firm itself is constructed for exactly that purpose. Uithoven himself is the Reno guy, VP and junior partner Hamilton is the Vegas guy, and the only other j3 Strategies lobbyist mentioned on the company’s website is Therese “Tessa” Laxalt. Oh, that Tessa Laxalt, sister to Adam Laxalt, the new Nevada Attorney General who was elected in large part due to hefty campaign contributions from — you guessed it — Sheldon Adelson. That’s called a direct chute chock full of political grease, right into the highest reaches of Nevada politics.
Yet being well-connected doesn’t necessarily translate into political effectiveness, as CSIG’s puppet masters have discovered. It’s still interesting to pull back the curtain and see how the pieces have been put to work. Remember the faux (or at least intentionally misleading) survey results sent as a mailer to what may have been tens of thousands of Pennsylvanian voters, in an attempt to cripple the Pennsylvania state legislature’s consideration of various anti-gambling regulatory bills?
Yes, they were mailed from Reno, where Uithoven himself is based. Just another day at the office for the CSIG board member or paid Adelson lobbyist, or whatever label you choose. No doubt that disgusting Pennsylvania falls under the “strategic communications” services that j3 Services touts.
There’s still one other question that has to be asked regarding j3 Strategies and the company’s intimate connection to Adelson. For months, GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio has been considered the frontrunner in the unofficial “Sheldon Adelson primary,” as a dozen or more Republican prezzie hopefuls have fallen all over themselves trying to win Adelson’s favor, and the tens of millions in dark-money campaign donations that goes with it.
Rubio is also the co-sponsor of the Senate version of Adelson’s RAWA bill, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham. Graham’s not going anywhere in the GOP sweepstakes, however, while Rubio remains one of the leaders in the race’s early stages. Yet if Rubio falters, the Adelson favor might be bestowed upon Ted Cruz instead.
Why Cruz? Because he’s also got a pipeline to j3 Strategies, and hence the direct connection to Adelson and his dearest pet cause. The lobbying group has worked on behalf of over a dozen major election campaigns, but only one GOP presidential candidate’s campaign is listed among its clients, that being Ted Cruz for President. Like Rubio, Cruz is no friend of online gambling, and the lobbying connection makes it even more likely that he’d be behind RAWA, “RAWA Lite” (the moratorium on the issue that Adelson lobbyists such as Uithoven have proposed), or another like-minded measure, should one appear in the future.
That’s how the dollars flow. In thick streams, but never far from Sheldon Adelson.