Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jim Messina

Addiction, Not Adelson, Is the Issue with Online Gambling

In the last 30 years, legal gambling has become a staple of American society. Desperate for new revenue, states have embraced casinos as panaceas that can balance their budgets and boost their economies. Inevitably, that has now led to a campaign to allow legalized gambling on the Internet. Last month, New Jersey became the third state after Nevada and Delaware to allow online gambling. Not content with that, the American Gaming Association (AGA) has formed a group called the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection that is buying ads in the Washington D.C. and Nevada markets to try and stop efforts to pass a federal online gambling ban. The deceptively named group will be fronted by a pair of former members of Congress (Republican Mary Bono and Democrat Mike Oxley) and will be advised by top Obama campaign operative Jim Messina. Its purpose is to blunt the efforts of Sheldon Adelson, the casino guru whose crusade against Internet gambling is rattling the industry in which he made his considerable fortune.

The AGA is rightly worried about Adelson’s pledge to spend whatever it takes to stop what he describes as a scourge that will victimize the poor in a way that brick-and-mortar destination casinos can’t. With an estimated $37 billion net worth, Adelson obviously has the wherewithal to help promote the effort to stop online gaming. As I first wrote last November, Adelson has formed his own non-profit group, also fronted by a bipartisan trio of retired politicians. But his opponents have an edge that could more than make up for any potential shortfalls in money: the implacable hostility of the mainstream press to Adelson. The casino owner became famous not so much because of his money but due to his willingness to use it to back Republicans as well as Israeli and Jewish causes. That has made him a perpetual target for the liberal media and the feature published today in Politico Magazine entitled “Sheldon Adelson’s Internet Jihad: The world’s orneriest casino mogul is trying to stop online gaming. Why?” is an example of what he can expect to face as the issue heats up. Though his interest in the subject appears to be both sincere and principled, it won’t be surprising if Messina and his friends in the Obama-friendly media try to make the discussion about the issue more about Adelson than the merits of legalizing online gambling.

Read More

In the last 30 years, legal gambling has become a staple of American society. Desperate for new revenue, states have embraced casinos as panaceas that can balance their budgets and boost their economies. Inevitably, that has now led to a campaign to allow legalized gambling on the Internet. Last month, New Jersey became the third state after Nevada and Delaware to allow online gambling. Not content with that, the American Gaming Association (AGA) has formed a group called the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection that is buying ads in the Washington D.C. and Nevada markets to try and stop efforts to pass a federal online gambling ban. The deceptively named group will be fronted by a pair of former members of Congress (Republican Mary Bono and Democrat Mike Oxley) and will be advised by top Obama campaign operative Jim Messina. Its purpose is to blunt the efforts of Sheldon Adelson, the casino guru whose crusade against Internet gambling is rattling the industry in which he made his considerable fortune.

The AGA is rightly worried about Adelson’s pledge to spend whatever it takes to stop what he describes as a scourge that will victimize the poor in a way that brick-and-mortar destination casinos can’t. With an estimated $37 billion net worth, Adelson obviously has the wherewithal to help promote the effort to stop online gaming. As I first wrote last November, Adelson has formed his own non-profit group, also fronted by a bipartisan trio of retired politicians. But his opponents have an edge that could more than make up for any potential shortfalls in money: the implacable hostility of the mainstream press to Adelson. The casino owner became famous not so much because of his money but due to his willingness to use it to back Republicans as well as Israeli and Jewish causes. That has made him a perpetual target for the liberal media and the feature published today in Politico Magazine entitled “Sheldon Adelson’s Internet Jihad: The world’s orneriest casino mogul is trying to stop online gaming. Why?” is an example of what he can expect to face as the issue heats up. Though his interest in the subject appears to be both sincere and principled, it won’t be surprising if Messina and his friends in the Obama-friendly media try to make the discussion about the issue more about Adelson than the merits of legalizing online gambling.

The Politico piece by veteran Nevada journalist Jon Ralston isn’t as bad as the skewed headline. In it, we learn more about Adelson’s strong feelings about the issue and the way the rivalry between him and his competitors in the gaming industry have spilled over into this effort. But the piece is driven in large measure by the desire of the AGA to label any efforts to stop their drive to make Internet gambling legal in all 50 states as more a matter of pique on the part of a public figure who has already been roundly bashed in public forums for years because of his support for the GOP and Israel.

But as juicy as all the backbiting about Adelson and his foes may be, the outcome of this debate should not be driven by opinions about the 80-year-old billionaire’s personality or his politics. The problems with Internet gaming are every bit as ominous as Adelson describes.

Personally, I’m no fan of the gaming industry or of casinos. But he is right to draw a broad distinction between resorts, such as those owned by the mogul in Las Vegas, Macao, China, and elsewhere and a scheme that would legalize gambling operations that would be accessible by computer, tablets, and phones in virtually every home in the nation. Going to a casino involves some degree of planning and is usually done as part of a vacation where it is assumed the individual will spend money on entertainment. Though legalized gambling in resorts, Indian reservations, and the casinos that have sprouted in cities and towns throughout the country have increased the incidence of gambling addiction as well as other social pathologies that usually accompany such business, that toll will pale in comparison to what will happen once every American with a smart phone is only a click away from online games that will empty their bank accounts and ruin their families.

Even more worrisome is the obvious danger that children who now routinely have access to phones and other devices that can access the legalized state ventures will be drawn into the world of gambling. There is a broad consensus in favor of restricting access to dangerous products such as alcohol and tobacco. A nation that banned “Joe Camel” must also understand that there will be no way to stop children from being hooked on gambling at increasingly early ages if online gaming is legalized everywhere.

To such arguments, industry proponents have no good answers. They tell us that stopping online gaming is futile and that the genie can’t be put back in the bottle and that we’ll all be better off if the federal government gets involved and lets the states take their cut from the business just as they do from casinos. Allowing this measure to go forward is good for those who have invested in such ventures as well as helpful to state governments, such as Chris Christie’s New Jersey, which hopes to eventually rake in as much money from Internet gamblers as its does from those who make the trek to Atlantic City. But anyone who has listened to the radio ads for New Jersey’s new Internet gambling business understands that what is going on is the worst kind of exploitation.

As Politico notes, the lure of gambling for both potential addicts and the entrepreneurs and governments that stand to profit from online games may be too great for Adelson’s effort to prevail. A 2011 decision of the Justice Department to overturn a previous ban has opened the floodgates that may never be closed. But he deserves credit for drawing attention to this scourge and for using his considerable political influence to try and halt the drive to make this addiction more accessible. This issue cuts across the usual partisan lines since liberals who are concerned about the way gambling singles out the poor and conservatives who claim to care about communal values should join Adelson’s effort. Though his critics continually seek to portray Adelson as self-interested, the casino mogul has been consistent about putting his money where his mouth is even if it does nothing to advance his businesses. Even those who don’t like his politics should be joining him to halt a movement that will do tremendous damage if Congress does not stop it.

Read Less

Private Email and White House Business

Considering that Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina is attacking Mitt Romney about  “transparency” issues, he probably should have been more careful about following disclosure rules while serving as White House deputy chief of staff. Politico reports that Messina appears to have used a private email address for government-related conversations with health care lobbyists:

A House Energy and Commerce Committee report out Tuesday is stocked with emails sent from private addresses and meetings scheduled away from the building to avoid official record. Among these are several sent to a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist by Messina, President Barack Obama’s then-deputy White House chief of staff, making promises about language for the health care reforms despite the resistance of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the measure.

“I will roll [P]elosi to get the 4 billion,” Messina wrote Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) lobbyist Jeffrey Forbes from his personal account just days before the Affordable Care Act cleared Congress in March 2010. “As you may have heard I am literally rolling over the House. But there just isn’t 8-10 billion.”

The note related to the official business regarding an agreement reached by the Senate Finance Committee and PhRMA on the president’s health care law. Pelosi’s office referred to previous statements in which she declined to address the deal between the administration and PhRMA.

Read More

Considering that Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina is attacking Mitt Romney about  “transparency” issues, he probably should have been more careful about following disclosure rules while serving as White House deputy chief of staff. Politico reports that Messina appears to have used a private email address for government-related conversations with health care lobbyists:

A House Energy and Commerce Committee report out Tuesday is stocked with emails sent from private addresses and meetings scheduled away from the building to avoid official record. Among these are several sent to a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist by Messina, President Barack Obama’s then-deputy White House chief of staff, making promises about language for the health care reforms despite the resistance of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the measure.

“I will roll [P]elosi to get the 4 billion,” Messina wrote Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) lobbyist Jeffrey Forbes from his personal account just days before the Affordable Care Act cleared Congress in March 2010. “As you may have heard I am literally rolling over the House. But there just isn’t 8-10 billion.”

The note related to the official business regarding an agreement reached by the Senate Finance Committee and PhRMA on the president’s health care law. Pelosi’s office referred to previous statements in which she declined to address the deal between the administration and PhRMA.

White House officials are required to use government emails when conducting government business, in order to preserve the electronic records. Private email addresses are far less transparent because messages can be deleted. As Politico notes, Messina’s use of private email could be a violation of the Presidential Records Act of 1978. The Bush White House came under fire for a similar violation in 2007.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee (which released the Messina emails) are well within their right to raise alarms about this. It’s hard to see how the Obama campaign can continue to attack Romney on “transparency” if it turns out their campaign manager skirted electronic transparency laws while serving in the White House.

Read Less

Making the Wish List

Tim Cavanaugh (h/t Glenn Reynolds) writes:

I don’t understand the Washington cant that says [Larry] Summers, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other manifest failures can’t be fired. Ronald Reagan, father of the debtorship society, fired six department heads in his first term, and made a point of first humiliating and then firing his deficit-hawk OMB director David Stockman. George W. Bush fired Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill on his way to winning re-election.

This is not only brilliant advice for the economic team, but it is worth considering on a broader basis. Multiple firings would serve many aims. First, they keep the media off of their new favorite storyline — namely, “Is this really the guy we went into the tank for?” Second, it cuts against the image of the president as the wimp in chief. Third, many people deserve to be fired — not just the obvious loonies and incompetents such as Van Jones and the fellow responsible for panicking New Yorkers with the Air Force One flyover. Fourth, Obama loves to play the “look ma, no hands game” so firing staff who “didn’t perform” maintains Obama’s aura as someone who really, honestly is the smartest, wisest president ever. He just had bad staff, you see.

So who’s on the list? Well, Joe Biden can’t be fired until 2012. Besides, he’s useful for reminding the country that we could be in worse hands. The obvious candidates: Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell, and James Jones. If there has been a worse trio of foreign-policy advisers who’ve made hash of just about everything they’ve touched I’d be hard pressed to name it. Their removal would be a big step toward “restoring our standing” in the world. (That’s what we were promised, you recall.) Think of it as a mega reset.

And then there are David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. After all, they’ve been running everything — from the Afghanistan war seminars, to Middle East strategy, to the stimulus and health care. Indeed, their fingerprints are all over many of the administration’s worst calls. Moreover, firing them would help dispel one of those “bad” storylines that John Harris pointed out:

The rap is that his West Wing is dominated by brass-knuckled pols. It does not help that many West Wing aides seem to relish an image of themselves as shrewd, brass-knuckled political types. In a Washington Post story this month, White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, referring to most of Obama’s team, said, “We are all campaign hacks.” The problem is that many voters took Obama seriously in 2008 when he talked about wanting to create a more reasoned, non-partisan style of governance in Washington.

And finally there is Eric Holder, who has been front and center in some of the worst decisions of the administration — the ill-conceived and unresearched decision to close Guantanamo, the release of interrogation memos, the reinvestigation of CIA operatives, the now-reversed decision to release detainee-abuse photos, and the civilian trial of KSM (topped off by an Alberto Gonzales-like appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee). But I’m thinking it’s best to wait on that one. They’ll need a moment when the KSM trial is spinning out of control and Senate races in New York and Illinois are still winnable to announce that, by gosh, this handling of KSM is a mess and Holder is taking full responsibility on the way out the door.

Okay, it’s a lot of people to can. But it’s been a lousy first year.

Tim Cavanaugh (h/t Glenn Reynolds) writes:

I don’t understand the Washington cant that says [Larry] Summers, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other manifest failures can’t be fired. Ronald Reagan, father of the debtorship society, fired six department heads in his first term, and made a point of first humiliating and then firing his deficit-hawk OMB director David Stockman. George W. Bush fired Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill on his way to winning re-election.

This is not only brilliant advice for the economic team, but it is worth considering on a broader basis. Multiple firings would serve many aims. First, they keep the media off of their new favorite storyline — namely, “Is this really the guy we went into the tank for?” Second, it cuts against the image of the president as the wimp in chief. Third, many people deserve to be fired — not just the obvious loonies and incompetents such as Van Jones and the fellow responsible for panicking New Yorkers with the Air Force One flyover. Fourth, Obama loves to play the “look ma, no hands game” so firing staff who “didn’t perform” maintains Obama’s aura as someone who really, honestly is the smartest, wisest president ever. He just had bad staff, you see.

So who’s on the list? Well, Joe Biden can’t be fired until 2012. Besides, he’s useful for reminding the country that we could be in worse hands. The obvious candidates: Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell, and James Jones. If there has been a worse trio of foreign-policy advisers who’ve made hash of just about everything they’ve touched I’d be hard pressed to name it. Their removal would be a big step toward “restoring our standing” in the world. (That’s what we were promised, you recall.) Think of it as a mega reset.

And then there are David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. After all, they’ve been running everything — from the Afghanistan war seminars, to Middle East strategy, to the stimulus and health care. Indeed, their fingerprints are all over many of the administration’s worst calls. Moreover, firing them would help dispel one of those “bad” storylines that John Harris pointed out:

The rap is that his West Wing is dominated by brass-knuckled pols. It does not help that many West Wing aides seem to relish an image of themselves as shrewd, brass-knuckled political types. In a Washington Post story this month, White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, referring to most of Obama’s team, said, “We are all campaign hacks.” The problem is that many voters took Obama seriously in 2008 when he talked about wanting to create a more reasoned, non-partisan style of governance in Washington.

And finally there is Eric Holder, who has been front and center in some of the worst decisions of the administration — the ill-conceived and unresearched decision to close Guantanamo, the release of interrogation memos, the reinvestigation of CIA operatives, the now-reversed decision to release detainee-abuse photos, and the civilian trial of KSM (topped off by an Alberto Gonzales-like appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee). But I’m thinking it’s best to wait on that one. They’ll need a moment when the KSM trial is spinning out of control and Senate races in New York and Illinois are still winnable to announce that, by gosh, this handling of KSM is a mess and Holder is taking full responsibility on the way out the door.

Okay, it’s a lot of people to can. But it’s been a lousy first year.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.