Sen. Lindsey O. Graham is a long shot to be president. So the South Carolina Republican, who announced his campaign Monday, needs help from some very powerful people to reach his ultimate goal.
Actually, there's one person, in particular. Graham is hoping to get a boost (in the form of millions of dollars to his super PAC, preferably) from Jewish mega-donor and Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
Adelson is a rich man with a near-singular focus on one issue: banning online gambling. It's a moral hazard to America's great nation, says Adelson, who has vowed to "spend whatever it takes" to ensure we and our children are safe from the corrupting influences of being able to gamble on our phones (there's actually lots of protections to make sure gamblers are who they say they are, but that's beside the point).
Left unsaid is the Las Vegas Sands CEO's fear that expanding the market to the Web for poker and slot machines will eat into his profits.
Because politics is increasingly dependent on outside money, Adelson has a real chance to win this fight. And one of his key allies in the Senate is Graham.
Graham introduced a bill in March 2014 to ban online gambling across all states.
Some version of online gambling is legal in three states — Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware — and being considered by about 10 more.
For years the federal laws on online gambling's legal status were nebulous, and Adelson wants a return to those days when everything was black market.
Graham's bill, and a related one in the House of Representatives, had so much support from congressional leaders that it almost got included in a catch-all budget package in December as the 113th Congress closed down. Graham has said publicly he'll reintroduce it this Congress as well.
Nearly all other casino owners in Las Vegas disagree with Adelson that online gambling is bad for our country or their business. But Adelson is simply more willing to spend his money supporting or breaking politicians to get his way.
He's built a well-oiled lobbying machine to persuade members of Congress to support a ban proposal — basically, tailored-suit reminders that Adelson won't hesitate to fund your next bajillion attack ads if you're not on board.
Adelson has proven he can be a major player in the presidential field. In 2012, he famously kept former House speaker Newt Gingrich's candidacy alive by injecting $15 million into Gingrich's struggling campaign.
All eyes were on Graham this March when The Washington Post's Matea Gold reported that Adelson held a fundraiser for Graham's political action committee as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress.
Graham is well aware of all of this, of course.
Which is why we'll pause for a moment to note that it's curious that Graham launched his bid for the White House without having reintroduced his bill to ban online gambling.
Anyone wanting to know whether Graham has a chance at the office he seeks should keep their eyes on this one, niche piece of legislation.