A Lobby Is Born

28 August 2001
A new political action committee is turning to the online gaming industry to help prevent federal and state governments from blocking consumers' rights to use credit cards and other bank devices for online transactions.

The new PAC, freedomofchoice.org, is focused on blocking pending federal and state legislation that would block the use of credit cards, checks, wire transfers and other prevalent financial instruments.

To achieve its goal, the committee has targeted online gaming legislation and initiatives as its primary focus out of the gate.

Formed by a group of concerned citizens from the private sector, freedomofchoice.org bills itself as a grassroots-based PAC and has already established ties in Nevada, California and Washington D.C.

Stephen Fein, considered a pioneer of the e-cash sector and a veteran of the merchant bankcard industry, is acting as the group's administrative director and spokesperson.

In addition to identifying its first target sector, the PAC is actively seeking financial support for its cause.

The group is actively seeking to forge strategic political alliances, as well as funding from organizations, corporations and, in large part, private contributors to fuel its lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill and in individual states, including California, where such legislation is in the works.

Fein said the idea for the PAC grew out of a constant feeling of frustration by both consumers and online operators who feel they are constantly fighting the government and credit card companies on how they can use their own money. He said the mission of the group is to provide a voice for consumers who are tired of restrictions placed on their spending habits.

"We want to protect the individual's right to use whatever financial instrument they so choose (i.e. credit or debit card, wire transfer, online bank deposit, money order, check, etc.)--to engage in whatever legal pursuit, online or offline, they so desire."

Fein said many governments, both at the national and state levels have either already passed or are considering restrictive legislation. Many of the proposed laws are aimed at blocking online gaming, which makes the industry and its players a perfect fit for the new PAC.

"Online gaming is the first activity this restrictive type of legislation is intended to eliminate, so we are focusing our initial energies there," he said. "By legislating, in effect, that legal adults can not use a valid credit card, check, wire transfer or any prevalent financial instrument for legal online gaming, government is really--in our opinion--creating bureaucratic infringement and breaching Constitutional rights. I mean, where is this all going to stop?"

To kick off its work the PAC has set up an informative Web site (www.freedomofchoice.org) where individuals and corporations can donate to the cause.

The legislative liaison for freedomofchoice.org, Joseph Fein, said the PAC is long overdue as states all across the U.S. try to introduce legislation aimed at restricting the use of credit cards and other bank devices.

"Currently, there are three bills in the U.S. House, one in the Senate," he said. "AB1229 is in California and other similar bills spring up in other states on an almost weekly basis which are basically using the same tack to snuff out an activity that a small group of politicos in power don't want."

Joseph Fein pointed out that the PAC supports regulations and certain restrictions to online gaming, but the current approach of blocking the activity through credit cards is paramount to prohibition.

"We certainly recognize the need for responsible regulation of online gaming, particularly in relation to underage players," he said. "We cannot sanction what in reality becomes prohibition of a legal entertainment activity. Remember, this country has tried prohibition, and it never works."

The group is not just seeking donations either. Plans are in the works for discussions to be initiated with key credit card associations, banks and other financial institutions to find "common ground" and solutions to problems as well as address any misconceptions plaguing the online gaming industry.

The group also said it would endorse elected officials, candidates and referendums that support its views.

Its efforts won't stop there though, freedomofchoice.org also hopes to research the breadth and scope of regulation to the industry that is needed and suggest legislative initiatives that address those concerns, with the issue of underage online gamers numbering among the top priorities.

To help spread its new message, the PAC is seeking out online gaming operators and other Internet sites to participate in a banner ad program. The committee is hoping that operators will post a link on their gaming sites to the freedomofchoice.org site so players can voice their opinions and help support the cause.