The kabuki theater known as RAWA has taken yet another turn towards the absurd on Thursday.
Nevada Senator Dena Heller told Politico he may not vote to confirm Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch because he was unsatisfied with her answers regarding the 1961 Wire Act, or more precisely, her unwillingness to overturn the 2011 Office of Legal Counsel opinion limiting the scope of the Wire Act to sports betting.
“I’m leaning no at this point,” Heller told Politico about his confirmation vote for Lynch. “Haven’t given it an absolute no but I’m leaning no.” An answer that would have been fine had he stopped there, but as is the case with so many RAWA supporters, they simply have to keep talking until they step in it.
Heller went on to say he was concerned with some of the answers Lynch gave regarding the Wire Act: “She said she has very little knowledge of what occurred in the Wire Act, and yet at the same time, she prosecuted illegal gambling, offshore gambling,” Heller said. “You can’t be prosecuting illegal gambling and say you have very little knowledge of the Wire Act itself.”
Unfortunately for the junior senator from Nevada this is not what Lynch said at all, and if he was to vote “no” because he perceives Lynch’s correct understanding of the Wire Act is wrong, it would speak volumes of the current state of the once august body.
What Lynch actually said
In her written responses to Senator Lindsey Graham’s Wire Act questions (which would likely be similar to any responses she gave Senator Heller) the AG nominee was very knowledgeable of the tools at her disposal to prosecute illegal online gambling, and understood the basics of the 2011 Wire Act opinion by the OLC.
She did say she was unwilling to comment on the 2011 opinion in more detail without researching it further, but did agree that she would review it.
It’s not that Lynch’s answers were wrong, or ignorant; the problem is she disagrees with Sheldon Adelson’s and his allies faulty interpretation of the issue.
Who would YOU trust to know how the Wire Act works?
The real problem is the senators questioning the prospective Attorney General don’t understand the Wire Act (particularly what the 2011 opinion states), what other tools a prosecutor has at their disposal to fight illegal online gambling, or even the basics from 9th grade civics, such as how a bill is passed or whether a federal online gambling would undermine state laws.
What we have is a Senator in Dean Heller, who has a background as a stockbroker, voicing his concern over one of the nation’s top prosecutors knowledge and interpretation of gambling laws.
We have another Senator, Lindsey Graham (who happens to have a law degree and served as a JAG during his military career) trying to catch the AG nominee with a gotcha question and failing miserably, as this Q&A demonstrates:
Lindsey Graham: “If the law is clear that the Wire Act extends only to sports betting, why did your office not limit it to sports betting in its complaint, as quoted above?”
Loretta Lynch: “The criminal enterprise used bookmakers located in the United States to solicit and accept sports wagers for the placement of bets on off-shore Internet gambling websites. The proceeds seized in connection with the civil forfeiture action were exclusively the proceeds of sports gambling. The reference in the civil forfeiture complaint to “‘real money’ casino games and sports betting” was taken from one of the website’s own description of the activities that it facilitated and was not a description of the predicate offense that the government asserted as the basis for the forfeiture.”
And then there is Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz, who has repeatedly stumbled when discussing his support of RAWA, first claiming that a federal ban “is the state’s rights position” during a recent conference call with state and state lottery officials. Chaffetz then managed the impossible, somehow getting both feet into his mouth at the same time when he told these same state officials, if they didn’t like his bill (RAWA) they could introduce their own after it passed.
Because apparently in Chaffetz’s world a state lawmaker or lottery official can somehow introduce legislation in the U.S. Congress.
Or as one attorney who participated in the call, Mark Hichar, told GamblingCompliance, “It seemed very odd that you would expect a state to file federal legislation to enable it to be able to conduct gaming in its borders.”