Washington Times Praises Bob Goodlatte’s 10th Amendment Stance Against RAWA
Whether or not the misnomered “Restoration of America’s Wire Act” bill paid for by Las Vegas Sands CEO billionaire Sheldon Adelson ever passes the US Congress remains uncertain. What is increasingly evident is that opposition to the greedy Adelson’s particular method of attempting to buy votes is unpopular with politicians facing the topic as an election year approaches.
Case in point: An op/ed appearing in the Washington Times this week praising powerful Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte for his “staunch and consistent” defense of the US’s Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which attempts to preserve states’ rights in those matters where US states have always had such control.
Gambling and other social-behavior topics are one such area where the US’s federal government has always bowed down to the will of each of the 50 states, which is why the US offers such a hodge-podge of gaming laws and jurisdictions. Nevada might be the US’s most wide-open state for most forms of gambling (notably excepting the lobby), but just next door, up a scenic mountain pass, lies Utah, where no gambling is legal, whatever its form.
That’s an extreme example, but no two US states are exactly alike. And that’s where the tale of “staunch federalist” Goodlatte and the battle over RAWA resumes.
Goodlatte, of course, is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. It’s in the Judiciary where discussion regarding the House version of the Adelson-backed RAWA bill will first be held, and it’s the committee where RAWA’s primary sponsor, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, also serves. Adelson’s minions have targeted Judiciary members in their hopes of getting RAWA moving in Congress; several of the committee’s members are among the bill’s small handful of listed sponsors.
But not Goodlatte. And though the author of the Washington Times piece, Daniel Horowitz, heaps heavy praise on Goodlatte for his stance, those with a longer memory might find themselves asking, “Why so?” And yet it’s a careful dance, a studied consideration: Even if Goodlatte is against RAWA on federalist principles, he is certainly, outspokenly, no friend of online gambling or online poker.
It was Goodlatte, after all, who was one of the four horseman of the 2006 UIGEA apocalypse, in which the first golden era of US-facing online gambling offered by offshore sites was crippled by changes designed to cripple the use of the United States’ banking system for such activities. The thing is, the UIGEA is also a federal law, and it was a blatant workaround designed to target exactly those sites and their US-based customers who were engaged in online gambling.
The concept of states’ rights didn’t seem to bother Goodlatte too much in 2006, though he ended up getting a good election scare that November, which he never expected. Over in Iowa, another of the UIGEA horsemen, US Rep. James Leach, went down to a defeat which political pundits blamed on the online-gambling fringe issue. Leach’s UIGEA advocacy cost him several thousand votes, which was just enough to cost him reelection. (Over in the Senate, UIGEA backers such as the vile Sen. Jim Frist had an easier path back to D.C.)
Anyhow, the recent WA Times piece was touted by Poker Players Alliance veep Rich Muny, perhaps as evidence that, yes, GOP lawmakers can be principled and vote against crony-capitalism measures such as Adelson’s RAWA. It’s good, good indeed; GOP lawmakers are not generally known for such principles, and if Goodlatte has truly hardened on the issue because of that stance, then bully and hurrah for him — it’s about time.
But as always, beware the puffery. Horowitz wants to put Goodlatte up on a pedestal, writing, “The true test of a statesman is whether he is willing to remain true to his principles even when faced with an issue he may personally oppose or disagree with. It appears Mr. Goodlatte has passed that test.”
That’s a bit extreme. Back in 2006, one of the reasons for his claiming to be against online poker was because it was a luck-based game. The late Lou Krieger, a prominent poker writer and author and the spokesman for RoyalVegas.com, notably and publicly challenged Goodlatte to a heads-up poker match, promising to back Goodlatte and the UIGEA if Goodlatte could possibly beat him at poker.
Krieger, who I spoke with often, was mindful of the 1980-ish Supreme Court decision in the US v. Billy Baxter ruling, in which poker pro Baxter successfully defended his poker income as being skill-derived, a ruling which the IRS has since summarily ignored for the following 35 years. And as for Goodlatte, he ignored Krieger’s public challenge utterly, and helped UIGEA pass through the House’s share of the “Vampire Congress” session that saw UIGEA secretly attached to a must-pass port security bill.
Honorable, statesmanlike, that episode wasn’t.
It’d be good if Goodlatte has indeed strengthened his principles, because that makes it much less likely that the wholly unprincipled RAWA bill gains a decent chance of passage. Poker players, however, would be best off remembering history. If Goodlatte has turned thumbs-down to RAWA on strict constitutional grounds, then he’s acted properly as a lawmaker, and indeed he should be praised. We won’t know that, though, until RAWA is well and truly buried like the piece of garbage it is.