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Norquist Rallies Conservatives, Libertarians to Oppose Online Gambling Ban

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Conservative advocates, including Grover Norquist and Lawson Bader, joined the fight to stop Congress from banning internet gambling, through H.R. 4301 and S. 2159, companion bills both titled “Restore America's Wire Act” with a blistering coalition letter.

“The real intention of this bill is to remove the states' 10th Amendment authority to regulate online gambling as states see fit within their own borders,” the letter said.

“We hope you will not allow RAWA to become yet another instance where the federal government expands its encroachment into the states’ purview,” the letter said. “State governments are more than capable of making this decision.”

In addition to Norquist, the president Americans for Tax Reform, and Lawson, the president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, nine other conservative and liberatarian leaders signed the letter: Larry Hart, American Conservative Union; John Tate, Campaign for Liberty; Andrew Langer, Institute for Liberty; Steve Pociask, American Consumer Institute; Gary Johnson, Our America Initiative; Katie McAuliffe, Digital Liberty; Tom Giovanetti, Institute of Policy Innovation; David Williams, Taxpayers Protection Alliance; Jeff Mazzella, Center for Individual Freedom and Andrew F. Quinlin, Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

With Norquist leading the way, it is a good sign that he will be fully engaged in the next session of Congress. In the last year, it was awkward after Norquist criticized Capitol Hill conservatives and libertarians for the October 2013 federal shutdown and was cool to supporting the most conservative candidates in primaries.

The letter addressed four congressional leaders: Senate's Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) and Minority Leader A. Mitchell McConnell and the House's Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Speaker John A. Beohner (R.-Ohio).

The letter was addressed to four leaders, but directed at one: Boehner.

In between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, there are only a handful of real business days left on Capitol Hill.

With time running out on the lame duck session, GOP House leaders gave up on getting a bill through regular order, specifically through the Judiciary Committee, and they cancelled the hearing that was meant to launch that process.

The Republican House leaders promised Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, the $14 billion-a-year gambling comglomerate, they will get a bill done.

The House GOP leaders have also reached out to Reid to see if he wanted to make RAWA part of a massive clearing of the decks bill, full of all the tax break extensions and other goodies that never made it out of this session.

Reid, so far, has not yet called in that marker.

Adelson is a major GOP contributor, who has donated $100 million to Republican candidates and committees. Up until Dec. 23, 2011, when the Justice Department flipped its interpretation of the 1961 Federal Wire Act, all Adelson ever asked was that the GOP supported Israel—not a heavy ask.

Before the switch, Justice held that the Wire Act banned gambling over the Internet, although the 1961 law was directed at sports bookies using interstate telephone lines.

After DOJ reinterpreted the Wire Act as silent on gambling on the web, Adelson vowed to spend whatever it takes to legislate the law back to where it was Dec. 22, 2011.

In the coalition letter, the conservative and libertarian activists, stay away from the Adelson angle, sticking instead to the constitutional principles, such as federalism, at stake.

“The states have always led the way in regulating gambling,” the letter said.

“That is why a diverse coalition of organizations including the Democratic Governors Association, National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures and numerous civil libertarian, free market and conservative groups have already spoken out against this legislation,” the letter said.

“This S.2159 and H.R. 4301 are an assault on our Federalist system; so much so, that the legislatures of New Jersey and Pennsylvania are currently considering resolutions to Congress to ask you to vote against such legislation,” the letter said.

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