House passes bill on Internet gambling

After a heated debate that touched on the activities of Jack Abramoff six years ago, the House yesterday overwhelmingly approved an anti-Internet-gambling measure that the former Republican lobbyist helped kill in 2000.

Abramoff, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to corruption charges in a bribery probe, played a major role in thwarting the 2000 legislation on behalf of eLottery, a company that hoped to put state lotteries online.

The bill failed narrowly on the suspension calendar in July 2000 after Abramoff and a former top aide to then-Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) organized conservative Christian groups to convince members that the bill would actually expand gambling online.

There were numerous other concerns about the bill in 2000; for instance, some members of both parties said they were reluctant to regulate the Internet.

Republican Reps. Roy Blunt (Mo.), John Doolittle (Calif.) and J.D. Hayworth (Ariz.) were among the members who voted to support the legislation yesterday after voting against it in 2000, while Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), whose links to Abramoff are being investigated by the Justice Department, opposed the bill yesterday, as he did six years ago.

The win is a major victory for Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa), who have pushed hard for various forms of this legislation over the past eight years.

Asked what role the investigation surrounding Abramoff played in yesterday's passage of the bill, Goodlatte said, "[He] certainly hurt us in the past."