Oh, the political intrigues that lurk on the touch screens of the upcoming primary elections. The byproducts of the high-stakes political parlor games played in sumptuous office back rooms and expensive restaurant booths, largely hidden from public view. It’s in these spots where playuhs gather and deals are hammered out to benefit the filthy rich and candidate wannabes on the make. And you won’t wake up to your iVotronic screen-tapping role until it’s waaaaay too late. Because all the sudden, you’re voting on something you’re barely aware even existed.
A little civics music please. About half the states in the union don’t allow ballot initiatives or referendums. What is allowed is something called an Advisory Question. Many of you will be given a ballot with one, two or even more advisory questions. Advisory questions are nothing more than glorified non-binding opinion polls that have no force of law, but that politicians can use to great effect on their way to the general election. These questions can sound newborn innocent, but, believe me, some represent billions upon billions of dollars. My state of South Carolina has an open primary. That means you’re not limited to just a Republican or just a Democratic ballot as you are as a registrant of either party in a closed primary. You have a choice.
So you take the ballot of your liking on that particular primary Tuesday and proceed to vote all Democrat or all Republican in contested primary races. Usually advisory questions are different for each party. I’ve had a sneak peek at both the Republican and Democratic questions for our upcoming primary, June 10th. The Republicans want the state constitution amended to reflect their position on abortion. Their second question is a proposition to gradually reduce all income taxes imposed on individuals, estates, trusts, and (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) “others” to zero. This will be accomplished in 1.4 percent annual increments till the magic number has been reached and every CEO (the few who actually pay their fair share of taxes) can add another wing to that 20,000 square foot shack.
That’s what the Republicans will be approving or leaving blank. Nothing new there. Reagan would have been a very comfortable booster. Now for the Democrats. Here’s where the intrigue literally explodes when you peel away the layers of billionaire special interests. The third of the Democrats three advisory questions involves legalizing medical marijuana, already a fact in 20 states. Whoever thought weed would become mundane? But, when compared to it’s companion questions, it’s like asking if wearing white after Labor Day might be allowed under certain circumstance. In fact, so non-threatening does legalizing pot for medical use appear to be that there’s actually a Republican bill proposing that an oil derived from marijuana be legalized for epilepsy sufferers.
Here are the bombshells, though on the surface appearing to be little more than ladyfingers. Question 1: “Do you believe each state, not Congress, should decide for itself whether to allow online gaming and determine how to regulate online gaming in their state?” YES or NO? This inquiry is followed by Democratic question 2. “The South Carolina Department of Transportation estimates more than $20 billion is required to fix South Carolina’s crumbling roads and bridges. Should gaming laws be modernized to fund the repairs instead of a tax increase? YES or NO? ‘YES’ appears to be the answer the Democratic brain-trust seeks. That puts them in an almost states rights and anti-tax posture, usually reserved for their opposition.
The ‘YES’ response will make the billionaire class miserable until certain “flexible” Republican legislators, local and national, provide the ammo the Richie Riches need to push something through Congress and general assemblies that their handlers in Vegas will pay dearly for through handsome contributions to those legislator’s war chests. The legal bribes are already changing hands. According to the NY Times, one of the early recipients, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, has already stuffed his campaign coffers with tens of thousands from just one source, plus that guy’s kin and pals and there are dozens of others at his doorstep. Another giftee is the ethically challenged Republican governor, Nikki Haley, in a tough race with Democrat, Vincent Sheheen.
The named source may have a familiar ring. It’s good old Sheldon Adelson, the wealthy beyond belief (nearly 40 billion big ones) octogenarian, who is best known for his 2012 miscalculation of his ticket to ownership of the White House. Sheldon wasted tens of millions of super Pac money on politically impotent horndog, Newt Gingrich.
Now he’s back as the moneyed front man for the mega-bucks casino crowd that wants to rid itself of that competitive irritant known as online gaming. Doing his part, Graham, introduced a lobbyist-written bill closing a loophole that’s friendly to the online crowd and has cost the casino owners major moola.
Sniffing money, like a drug dog sniffs narcotics, other presidential hopefuls are squeezing into an upcoming four-day event with the benign title of Republican Jewish Coalition, little more than a money-grubbing schmooze-fest for well documented opportunists such as former Florida governor, Jeb Bush and three current governors, Christie, Walker and Kasich, presidential pretenders all. The quartet is eagerly seeking palm greasing contributions for little more than publicly denouncing online betting. Easy money for an easily compromised clutch of typical “in it for themselves” Republicans.
Frankly, I’m not sure that issue registers all that much in South Carolina. There’s some online poker action, but, to be honest, I’ve never had so much as one conversation with an online gaming adherent. I don’t even recall any media to speak of on the subject. I’m guessing that highly placed dems are looking for a cumulative ‘YES’ to put the real pressure on the casino magnets. So, I guess I’d counsel a ‘YES’ vote, if only to encourage competition. That’s what Republicans tell me capitalism is all about, though every political move they make is in the opposite direction.
The Democratic Governor’s Association is leading the effort opposing a ban on online gaming. A surprising bedfellow is the Fraternal Order of Police that supports the continued regulated existence of online gaming. These and other pro-online efforts are not as high-profile as the big money GOP crowd, but the voices are there. I wouldn’t be surprised if these questions aren’t appearing on numerous primary screens in numerous states, maybe even on a screen near you.
One thing I would recommend. Get in touch with your local election board and see if there are any Advisory Questions in your primary. If you have a ballot initiative or a referendum, ask about that too. Those will be gracing your November 4th screens. It’s never too early to do your research and go to the polls as an informed voter.