Following Wednesday’s hearing on HR 707, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act introduced by Jason Chaffetz, there is plenty to talk about.
From the lack of true expert witnesses, to the statements made by the witnesses (ranging from levelheaded to extraordinary), in this column I’ll detail what the lawmakers who sit on the House Judiciary Committee think about RAWA.
Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, making him one of the more influential and important people in the RAWA process. This has troubled online gaming supporters, as Goodlatte is one of the men most responsible for UIGEA.
These concerns appear overstated.
Goodlatte’s comments and questions yesterday were thoughtful, and he seemed genuinely conflicted between his abhorrence of gambling and his belief in a state’s right to craft the laws within its borders.
While he hasn’t come out against RAWA, the fact that Goodlatte hasn’t signed on to the bill, taken with his statements, should give us all solace.
Goodlatte’s complete opening remarks.
Jackson-Lee is looking for answers
Sheila Jackson-Lee’s (D-TX) opening remarks led me to believe she supported certain aspects of Chaffetz’s RAWA bill.
However, by the end of the hearing, the former House Judiciary Chair seemed to be softening, and while she ended her remarks by asserting the bill would be marked-up, she also left a lot of wiggle room for changes that might weaken RAWA.
Jackson-Lee’s declaration of RAWA being marked-up shouldn’t be too alarming, as John Brennan Jr. noted:
@ppapoker Breathe. They marked-up Rep. Barney Frank's iGaming bill, and it never got further than that. One committee vote in 9 years.
— Joe Brennan Jr (@joebrennanjr) March 25, 2015
Poe says No!
Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) was the first speaker who was in total opposition to RAWA, and stated concerns over federalism as well as consumer safety in his remarks.
Poe also made a point to introduce the written testimony of CEI’s Michelle Minton into the record.
— michelleminton (@michelleminton) March 25, 2015
Obi-Wan Kenobi to Richmond, these are not the answers you’re looking for…
Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA) is one of the few democrats who have backed RAWA, but based on the answers he received to his questions during Wednesday’s hearing (and the look on his face when these answers were being given), I wouldn’t be surprised if Representative Richmond is now regretting signing his name to the bill as a cosponsor in 2014.
Aftab: "If RAWA passes, your lottery goes offline." Rep. Richmond: "Does anyone disagree?" No one disagrees #RAWA
— Chris Grove (@OPReport) March 25, 2015
While this is just speculation, Representative Richmond went into the hearing as a potential RAWA cosponsor, but he probably left the hearing thinking, “What have I gotten involved with?”
Chaffetz’s idea of debate
Representative Jason Chaffetz’s idea of debating the issues apparently means to stick your fingers in your ears and chant, “lalalalalalalalalalalalala” whenever somebody states something that goes against your own narrative.
Throughout the hearing, Chaffetz continued to make patently dishonest and false assertions, some so peculiar I was expecting to hear the NBC sitcom laugh track start playing.
For instance, the idea that a federal ban (on anything) is a states’ rights bill is a new level of absurdity.
His dismissal of technology he is unaware of and has never seen is also absurd, and made all the more troubling by the revelation today that members of his staff attended a technology demonstration held earlier in the day by the Poker Players Alliance explaining the ins and outs of regulated online gambling in the United States.
Following his questions (which means nobody would have a chance to respond) Chaffetz stated, “It’s naive to think you can create these fictitious borders and prohibit it from coming into the state of Utah. It is fiction for anyone to believe they can virtually create these borders.”
To believe this is to believe GPS, the identification of IP addresses, Wi-Fi, and cell phone triangulation don’t exist.
In the world of Jason Chaffetz, every time the police find someone by tracking their cell phone, or when Facebook or Google Maps pinpoints a location, that’s fiction. Must just be dumb luck.
He wouldn’t have had to go very far to see these “fictions” in action, considering the PPA’s demo of it was taking place throughout the day just outside his office.
— Poker Alliance (@ppapoker) March 25, 2015
Following the expiration of his allotted time for questioning, Chaffetz promptly left the hearing before its conclusion.
Still trying to play gotcha with Loretta Lynch
In keeping with his theme of lying by omission, Chaffetz quoted Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch out of context in an effort to discredit the OLC’s 2011 opinion on the Wire Act.
Chaffetz quoted Lynch as saying:
“I’m not aware of any statute or regulation that gives OLC opinions the force of law.”
Chaffetz then asked the witnesses if they agreed with this – everyone did of course. What Chaffetz declined to mention were Lynch’s remarks that preceded the line Chaffetz quoted:
“It is my understanding that OLC opinions customarily are treated as authoritative by executive agencies. I am not aware of any statute or regulation that gives OLC opinions the force of law.”
Lynch later expounded on this further by saying:
“[…] it is my understanding that the Office strives to provide an objective assessment of the law using traditional tools of statutory interpretation. These tools would not include seeking the views of Congress, the public, law enforcement, or state and local officials on a question of statutory interpretation.”
Finally, Lynch said she would review the opinion if confirmed, but, “Unless in the course of my review I conclude that OLC’s interpretation of the Wire Act is unreasonable, I do not intend to take any action to suspend or revoke the opinion.”
There’s Dave, and Tim, and John, and Tim, and Dave…
Chaffetz also rattled off a number of names and outlets that have backed RAWA, but again, this was not an entirely honest exercise.
Chaffetz repeated several names, and cited multiple newspapers in which pro-RAWA op-eds have appeared, implying these outlets were on his side. He failed to mention many of these op-eds were written by lobbyists for Sheldon Adelson, and op-eds in newspapers do not reflect the views of the paper or its editorial board.