The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Congressman hit with purse of Sheldon Adelson’s wife signs on to Adelson anti-online gaming bill

Casino magnate and major political contributor Sheldon Adelson waits with his wife, Miriam, for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress. (Moment of the purse drop?) (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
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How’s this for timing.

On the same day that Sheldon Adelson’s wife dropped her Hermes clutch off a ledge and whacked him on the shoulder, Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Neb.) became the newest lawmaker to sign on as a co-sponsor to an anti-online gaming bill backed by Adelson. In fact, Ashford was the only congressman to sign on Tuesday. The other 13 co-sponsors had signed on in the weeks prior.

So Ashford and Miriam Adelson would have had something to talk about when she called him Wednesday to apologize for accidentally knocking her purse off the House gallery railing edge while attending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech and hitting the Democrat.

Ashford’s spokesman said that “the call wasn’t at all necessary, but [Ashford] appreciated the opportunity to talk with her.” He described it as a great conversation and said she was “very kind and gracious.”

The congressman had decided to sign on to the Adelson bill before “pursegate,” the spokeman said.

The bill, introduced in early February, would ban online gambling. Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Sands company, has been wielding his tremendous influence to get congressional backers because Internet betting threatens his casino customer base. The federal government has left it up to the states, but, curiously, some Republicans think it should be regulated by the feds.

Many conservative Republicans, however, say it should remain a state rights issue. It’s a complicated area for the GOP, considering that Adelson and his wife contributed almost $6 million to federal candidates in the 2014 midterms and ranked eighth in all individual donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

But for Ashford, it won’t be purse strings that connect him to the Adelsons. It will just be a purse.