Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says he will soon propose a federal Internet gambling ban, a proposal that mirrors the agenda of his major backer, billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, and the Adelson-backed Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. This move comes after Adelson and his wife hosted a Graham fundraiser last year.
Graham has not previously made gaming a major policy priority, but did oppose a 2010 proposal to legalize Internet poker. Last month, he told industry news site GamblingCompliance that he will file a bill to ban to ban all online gambling, nationwide.
Such an effort has been pushed by Adelson, who has called Internet poker “a threat to our society — a toxin which all good people ought to resist,” and dismissed online gambling as “fool’s gold.” Adelson dismissed charges that the competition is bad for his businesses, arguing that “the impact on my company’s business would be limited.” Though Adelson has vigorously opposed online gaming, a coalition of other casinos oppose his proposed ban.
While Sheldon and Miriam Adelson have literally poured millions of dollars into electing political candidates, prior to 2013 the only significant contribution Graham received from them was a $2,300 donation in 2008 from Sheldon Adelson’s corporate PAC.
But last year, the Adelsons anted up big for Graham, who is up for re-election this November and faces multiple primary challengers. As Politico noted Wednesday, Sheldon and Miriam each gave $7,800 contributions to Graham’s campaign committee in May 2013 (both were refunded $2,600 of that, as the total exceeded federal limits). The newspaper noted that a Graham spokesman “noted that the Adelsons’ contributions paled in comparison to the senator’s $8 million in fundraising this cycle.”
But weeks earlier, the Adelsons had given even more help to the senior Senator from South Carolina. Las Vegas Sands PAC sent an additional $5,000 contribution to Team Graham — the legal maximum. And on April 30, 2013, the Adelsons hosted a high-dollar fundraiser for Graham at their Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. According to the event invitation, the Adelsons hosted Graham and “special guest” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) at their exclusive “Paiza Club” for an evening reception and policy discussion. The event, which cost $1,000 to attend, exclusively benefited Graham’s re-election campaign.
Sheldon Adelson, whose Sands casino reportedly paid $47.4 million in fines to settle a federal money laundering investigation, is apparently still facing separate inquiries into alleged foreign corrupt practices. While his direct donations to Graham and other candidates are public record, he vowed in 2012 to keep the bulk of his future political giving secret, by sending it to tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups that do not have to disclose donors. At the time, he told Las Vegas Sun political reporter Jon Ralston that he believed the media’s use of the phrase “casino mogul” in describing his donations to candidates “is not helpful to the person” he is helping to bankroll.