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Yesterday Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee for U.S. Attorney General, found herself on the hot seat in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, fielding questions over a seven hour span.
Amid questions about immigration, search and seizure policies, and terrorism, Lynch also weighed in on a far less critical issue – online gambling – thanks to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
Following somber questions about Guantanamo, detainee rights, and U.S. citizens as enemy combatants from Senator Graham, Lynch had to switch gears and field a question from the Senator about the 1961 Wire Act towards the end of the hearing (about 6:20:00 in).
After his segue to online gambling, Graham asked Lynch if she was familiar with the Wire Act decision – referencing the 2011 opinion by U.S. Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz – that limited the scope of the Wire Act to sports betting- and if she agreed with the ruling.
Below is a complete transcript of the exchange (video here):
Senator Lindsey Graham: Online Gaming. Are you familiar with the decision by the office of legal counsel in 2011 to basically say that the prohibition in the Wire Act was limited to sporting events and contests?
Loretta Lynch: I’m generally familiar…
LG: Do you agree with that decision?
LL: I haven’t read that decision Senator so I’m not able to really analyze it for you. Certainly I think it was one interpretation of the Wire Act that was…
LG: Would you agree that one of the best ways for a terrorist organization or criminal enterprise to be able to enrich themselves is to have online gaming that would be very hard to regulate?
LL: I think certainly that with respect from those that provide material support and finance of a terrorist organization is that they will use any means to finance those organizations.
LG: I’m going to send you some information from law enforcement officers and other people who have been involved in this fight and their concern about where online gaming is going under this interpretation.
In his closing words, Graham was almost certainly referencing the September 2013 letter the FBI sent to Congress.
As OPR has reported on in the past, the genesis of, and interpretation of, the FBI letter Graham is likely referencing is regularly (and grossly) mischaracterized by the opposition side.
Additionally, Graham’s allusion to “other people” involved in this fight is almost certainly Senator Graham-speak for Sheldon Adelson and the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling’s talking points that have been espoused by Las Vegas Sands spokesman Andy Abboud, former Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln, and CSIG’s other spokespeople.
Senator Graham was the sponsor of the Senate version of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) in 2014, a bill widely believed to have been written by Sheldon Adelson’s camp, and introduced by Senator Graham at Adelson’s behest.
As ThinkProgress reported last March, Adelson and his wife each cut as check to Lindsey Graham’s campaign for $7,800 in 2013, their first contribution to him since a $2,300 donation in 2008.
That was reportedly on top of a $5,000 contribution to Graham’s campaign from Las Vegas Sands PAC.
ThinkProgress also reported that on April 30, 2013, “the Adelsons hosted a high-dollar fundraiser for Graham at their Venetian hotel in Las Vegas… The event, which cost $1,000 to attend, exclusively benefited Graham’s re-election campaign.”
Graham’s sudden interest in the issue of online gambling manifested shortly thereafter.
Senator Graham’s line of questioning in what will be one of, if not the, the most high-profile confirmation hearings of the year shows that RAWA is alive and kicking in 2015.
Senator Graham chose to spend nearly 1/3 of his allotted eight minutes questioning the likely future Attorney General of the United States not on immigration or some other hot button issue, but on the issue of online gambling.
And his questions came on the same day as reports that Adelson recently had a private audience with GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee.