Mike Huckabee's Fight Against Online Gambling (and Libertarians)

The possible 2016 presidential candidate talks up Sheldon Adelson's biggest (non-Israel) issue, live on Fox News.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speaks at the Freedom Summit at The Executive Court Banquet Facility April 12, 2014 in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Conversations between failed presidential candidates and senators-turned-lobbyists do not, typically, make for thrilling television. I won't pretend that Mike Huckabee's weekend interview with Blanche Lincoln, who rebounded from her 2010 landslide defeat to work with the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, was the exception. Huckabee's discussion with Lincoln was totally without hostility. He agreed with the premise.

"Online gambling websites are preying on every kid with a smartphone or a tablet," warned Huckabee. "This is frankly one of the most important topics that I don't hear anybody talking about."

It's very likely that Huckabee believes this. It's also simply true that he's endorsing Sheldon Adelson's lobbying stance. Lincoln is a lobbyist retained by Adelson's Las Vegas Sands corporation; the Coalition is an Adelson front group, as has been known for most of 2014. Its less-than-secret mission is to bring social conservatives like Huckabee—and his viewers—into the trenches, to pass the Restoration of America's Wire Act, ban Internet gambling, and thereby direct more profits to brick-and-mortar casinos. Like—oh, let's just pick one at random—the Venetian.

Huckabee's fresh enthusiasm for this cause sets him against his eternal intra-Republican Party enemies, the libertarians—or, as he calls them, the "faux-cons." Opposition to the online gambling ban has been fomented and endorsed by the likes of FreedomWorks, Grover Norquist, Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty (through president John Tate), and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. "This bill allows the federal government to take a heavy hand in regulating the Internet, opening the door for increased Internet regulation in the future," those groups' leaders said in a letter to legislators this year. 

The hard-working scolds of Media Matters saw Huckabee's online gambling settlement as a feint toward Adelson, and 2016; they point out that Huckabee never mentioned the financial backing for Lincoln's group. That was just another way for him to take the side of the righteous against libertarians, as he declared that anyone who opposed an online gambling ban be "thrown out" of politics. And he has a TV show and an upcoming book and a following.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.