Reparative therapy and confirmation bias: An illustration

One of the biggest problems I have with reparative therapy is the self-fulfilling nature of the approach. Reparative therapists assume that the existence of same-sex attraction means a person has suffered gender based trauma during a specific period of childhood.

Reparative therapist David Pickup has commented on another post that straight men may have wounds but, from his point of view, they are not as deep as those which haunt gay men. In other words, if a straight man says he was traumatized in the same way, the reparative therapist’s answer is that the trauma wasn’t deep enough to trigger the reparative drive leading to same-sex attraction. If the gay man says he does not recall any such trauma, then the reparative drive theory posits that the gay man has repressed it and needs to uncover it. It seems to me the powerful effects of confirmation bias are at work.

The assumptions necessary to work as a reparative therapist remind me of the assumptions often associated with the repressed memory movement. Especially during the decade of the 1990s, many therapists assumed that negative moods such as depression or relational problems were due to childhood abuse of some kind that had been forgotten via the defense mechanism of repression. Some therapists harbored a belief that clients who could not remember trauma from the past were in a state of denial. This belief  led some therapists to repeatedly ask about recollections of trauma and hold out the possibility to their clients that they were simply unable to remember.

By questioning the mechanism of repression, I am not questioning the reality of gender based trauma. I am not questioning that some gay people had very impoverished childhoods. Of course that is true. But so did many straight people. In his recent comment, Mr. Pickup proposed that gay people have experienced deeper trauma than straight people experienced. This seems circular to me. How can you tell which experiences are worse? As far as I can tell, the way reparative therapists answer this question iss by knowing the sexual orientation of the client. Straight people have deep wounds; gay people, by definition according to the reparative approach, have deeper wounds.

As an illustration of how clients can adapt themselves to the theories of their therapists, I offer the experience of Carol Diament. Ms. Diament initially thought she would not need to detach from her family, as the other clients at Genesis Associates did. However, after awhile, “memories of abuse came up” and she detached from her parents (over three years), husband and even small children (at least 8 months and maybe longer).

Eventually Carol got away from Genesis, sought another therapist and came to realize that her memories were reconstructed with the help of her therapists at Genesis. By then, the damage was done. She had lost years of her life and had even lost her immediate family.

The clip is just over nine minutes long, but I hope you will watch it all the way through. Then, I hope you will discuss this and let me know what you think. Am I seeing a parallel with reparative theory that is valid or not?

Over the years, I have worked with many clients, gay and straight, who have experience significant trauma with parents. However, I have not been able to differentiate them based on the severity of their experiences. Furthermore, I know and have worked with many gay men and women who recall no deep trauma relating to their parents or peers. I also know gay men who experienced trauma after they came out to their parents because of the tension surrounding homosexuality. However, prior to the disclosure, the relationship was on par with any comparable straight person’s home life.

I also want to be clear that I am not closed to the possibility that certain childhood experiences could influence some people to question sexuality and engage in same-sex behaviors. In addition, some experiences of abuse are associated with risky sexual behavior of all kinds. Therapy, even reparative therapy, might help such people. However, I think these scenarios represent only a portion (probably very small) of the total gay and bisexual population.

Thoughts on NARTH’s statement on sexual orientation change

For the sake of time, I am going to react to parts of NARTH’s new statement on sexual orientation change. First, I want to say a few things about this paragraph:

Finally, it also needs to be observed that reports on the potential for sexual orientation change may be unduly pessimistic based on the confounding factor of type of intervention. Most of the recent research on homosexual sexual orientation change has focused on religiously mediated outcomes which may differ significantly from outcomes derived through professional psychological care. It is not unreasonable to anticipate that the probability of change would be greater with informed psychotherapeutic care, although definitive answers to this question await further research. NARTH remains highly interested in conducting such research, pursuant only to the acquisition of sufficient funding.

I am surprised that NARTH complains about religiously mediated change when they highlight such change on the organization website. In any event, it is good that the writer of this statement acknowledges that religious mediation is different than therapy. Now, if only they would stop offering Jones and Yarhouse as evidence that therapy works.

On the subject of research, I am highly skeptical that NARTH really wants to do the type of study that would really address questions about change related to therapy. I say this because NARTH has been in existence since 1992 and they have had ample opportunities to do research. I believe one study has been funded by NARTH (please correct me if I am wrong NARTH readers).

Regarding funding, I believe the religious conservative world could spare funds for such research if there was a willingness to do it. I recognize NARTH is not a rich organization but there are ways to do research without large sums of money. For instance, Mark Yarhouse has been prolifically doing research on sexual identity and the sexual identity framework without much funding. I have done some research on my own out of my own pocket (although far less than Yarhouse). Surely, some Christian right organizations could go together and get NARTH the funds necessary to really test their claims.

Over the past several years, I have asked various social conservative sources for funding in order to test those who say they have changed in Michael Bailey’s lab at Northwestern. We need somewhere between $60-100K to do it. Bailey has identified profiles of straights, gays and bisexuals. I think we could also identify the spousosexual profile with some creativity but neither one of us has had success in getting funds.

An intellectually more honest position would be to say that NARTH does not know for sure about change since adequately designed research has not been conducted. Until then, NARTH’s leaders who go out to religious right groups saying with confidence that change from gay to straight happens will be violating their own statement.

NARTH issues statement on sexual orientation change

Apparently in response to Alan Chambers’ candor about sexual orientation change, the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality issued a clarification of what that organization means by change.

Issued January 27, the statement reads in full:

Current discussions of homosexual sexual orientation change are unavoidably occurring within a sociopolitical climate that makes nonpartisan scientific inquiry of this subject very difficult.  In light of this reality, a few considerations are crucial for accurately understanding the sometimes contradictory opinions regarding the possibility of sexual orientation change.   First and foremost, it is important to recognize that how change is conceptualized has vast implications for our thinking about change.  Some of the more ardent proponents and opponents of homosexual sexual orientation change may view change in strictly categorical terms, where change is an all-or-nothing experience.  Proponents and opponents with this view differ only in the direction of their desired outcome.  Proponents of change understood in categorical terms may view a homosexual sexual orientation as a lifestyle choice that merely needs to be renounced. Opponents who take this viewpoint, on the other hand, may conceive of sexual orientation as essentially hard wired and simply not modifiable.  NARTH does not support either of these perspectives.

NARTH believes that much of the expressed pessimism regarding sexual orientation change is a consequence of individuals intentionally or inadvertently adopting a categorical conceptualization of change. When change is viewed in absolute terms, then any future experience of same-sex attraction (or any other challenge), however fleeting or diminished, is considered a refutation of change. Such assertions likely reflect an underlying categorical view of change, probably grounded in an essentialist view of homosexual sexual orientation that assumes same-sex attractions are the natural and immutable essence of a person.  What needs to be remembered is that the de-legitimizing of change solely on the basis of a categorical view of change is virtually unparalleled for any challenge in the psychiatric literature.  For example, applying a categorical standard for change would mean that any subsequent reappearance of depressive mood following treatment for depression should be viewed as an invalidation of significant and genuine change, no matter how infrequently depressive symptoms reoccur or how diminished in intensity they are if subsequently re-experienced.  Similar arguments could be made for any number of conditions, including grief, alcoholism, or marital distress.  The point is not to equate these conditions with homosexuality, but rather to highlight the inconsistency of applying the categorical standard only to reported changes in unwanted same-sex attractions.

Rather than pigeonholing homosexual sexual orientation change into categorical terms, NARTH believes that it is far more helpful and accurate to conceptualize such change as occurring on a continuum.  This is in fact how sexual orientation is defined in most modern research, starting with the well known Kinsey scales, even as subsequent findings pertinent to change are often described in categorical terms. NARTH affirms that some individuals who seek care for unwanted same-sex attractions do report categorical change of sexual orientation.  Moreover, NARTH acknowledges that others have reported no change. However, the experience of NARTH clinicians suggests that the majority of individuals who report unwanted same-sex attractions and pursue psychological care will be best served by conceptualizing change as occurring on a continuum, with many being able to achieve sustained shifts in the direction and intensity of their sexual attractions, fantasy, and arousal that they consider to be satisfying and meaningful. NARTH believes that a profound disservice is done to those with unwanted same-sex attractions by characterizing such shifts in sexual attractions as a denial of their authentic (and gay) personhood or a change in identity labeling alone.  Attempts to invalidate all reports of such shifts by presuming they are not grounded in actual experience insults the integrity of these individuals and posits wishful thinking on an untenably massive scale.

Finally, it also needs to be observed that reports on the potential for sexual orientation change may be unduly pessimistic based on the confounding factor of type of intervention.  Most of the recent research on homosexual sexual orientation change has focused on religiously mediated outcomes which may differ significantly from outcomes derived through professional psychological care.  It is not unreasonable to anticipate that the probability of change would be greater with informed psychotherapeutic care, although definitive answers to this question await further research.  NARTH remains highly interested in conducting such research, pursuant only to the acquisition of sufficient funding.

To summarize, then, those who are  highly pessimistic regarding change in sexual orientation appear to have assumed a categorical view of change, which is neither in keeping with how sexual orientation has been defined in the literature nor with how change is conceptualized for nearly all other psychological challenges.  NARTH believes that viewing change as occurring on a continuum is a preferable therapeutic approach and more likely to create realistic expectancies among consumers of change-oriented intervention.  With this in mind, NARTH remains committed to protecting the rights of clients with unwanted same-sex attractions to pursue change as well as the rights of clinicians to provide such psychological care.

I hope to post something on this Monday or Tuesday; but for now here is NARTH’s official word on the subject of orientation change. Discuss…

Gingrich says he worries about poor spending money on gambling while supported by gambling magnate

Really?

According to the Miami Herald:

“At the risk of offending some of my friends who’ve been very helpful,” Gingrich said, “I worry about the degree to which the poor are the most likely to spend a large percentage of their income gambling.”

According to the report, Gingrich did not spell out his views on gambling which is a hot topic in Florida now since at least two companies, including Gingrich’s benefactor – Sheldon Adelson – want to put casinos there.
I wish someone in the press covering his campaign would ask him about the two times when Gingrich supported policies favorable to the gambling industry, but did not give Indians a break on policy involving their casinos.

Gingrich says his relationship with Adelson is about Israel and I believe that is partly true. However, Gingrich has conducted at least one fundraiser in one of Adelson’s casinos and supported at least two causes of importance to the gambling industry.

If Gingrich is worried about the poor and the dollars they spend, then why did he show favor to the gambling industry while Speaker of the House? Is this a new worry?

Related:

Former South African President criticizes Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki criticized MP David Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill Thursday in Kampala while speaking at an event at Makerere Institute for Social Research.

About the bill’s provisions, Mbeki said:

I mean what would you want? It doesn’t make sense at all. That is what I would say to the MP. What two consenting adults do is really not the matter of law.

Bahati’s responded later to a reporter:

However, Mr Bahati yesterday said the Bill was brought to curb a several issues including inducement, recruitment and funding homosexuality. “His excellency (Mr Mbeki) needs to read the Bill and understand the spirit in which it was brought and the context in which we are talking about,” Mr Bahati said.

Although the Ugandan ambassador to the US recently said the bill was not going to be considered, Bahati seems to believe otherwise.  As far as I can tell, the bill is still “gathering dust” in committee and could still be brought to the floor of Parliament.

Media widens coverage of Gingrich ties to gambling magnate

Some reporting is now examining the ties between Newt Gingrich and gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson. I have looked at various angles of the connection, including Gingrich’s favorable treatment of the industry by thwarting an oversight committee and backing a tax break sought by casino owners.

Yesterday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported some uneasiness among evangelicals about the significant ties between Gingrich and Adelson. One Gingrich backer, Matt Towery, said Gingrich wouldn’t do any favors for Adelson. However, as I noted earlier in the week, he already has.

Today’s Toronto Star examines the relationship and quotes Fred Wertheimer as saying that Gingrich has opened himself up to questions regarding his policies on gambling and Israel by being so dependent on one donor.

Just an hour ago, ABC News Brian Ross looked at the investigation of Adelson’s gambling empire by the Justice Department and the Securities Exchange Commission.

Finally, The Nation’s Ben Adler reports on a conversation he had with Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist convicted of bribing Congress while Gingrich was speaker. In this conversation and in his new book, Abramoff describes Gingrich’s response to a request from Abramoff that Indian casino gambling profits go untaxed. Gingrich reportedly said that the Indian tribes had a good deal and didn’t need special treatment.

If this story is true, then in effect, Gingrich favored special tax treatment for the gambling industry but not for Indian tribes.

Related:

Apostle Dutch Sheets endorses Newt Gingrich for President

And Sheets also joined Gingrich’s Faith Leaders Coalition.

Here is the press release:

Pastor Dutch Sheets Endorses Newt Gingrich

Atlanta, GA– Dutch Sheets has endorsed Newt Gingrich for president, and will be joining the Gingrich Faith Leaders Coalition.

Dutch Sheets is the author of 18 books, including the best seller Intercessory Prayer. Throughout his 34 years of ministry he has pastored, taught in several colleges and seminaries, served on the board of directors of numerous organizations and has become recognized as an international leader on the subject of prayer.

In a statement, Pastor Sheets explained that his endorsement is for the “most important election of our lifetimes”

“Newt Gingrich is only one that I can confidently say has the heart, experience, backbone, Constitutional brilliance, and intellectual strength to defeat Obama and lead America back to greatness” said Sheets.

“The America we know and love—indeed, the America God and our founding fathers dreamed of and birthed—cannot survive another 4 years of the current leadership in Washington.”

Sheets will join the coalition led by Christian market researcher, George Barna. It also includes, Pastor Tim LaHaye, Beverly LaHaye, Dr. Jim Garlow, the California pastor behind the Proposition 8 Battle, Congressman J.C. Watts, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, Dr.Michael Youssef, Pastor Richard Lee, and Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

The coalition is currently setting up a leadership committee in Florida, and will be setting up leadership in other states in the coming weeks.

Sheets is securely within the New Apostolic Reformation and believes that we are supposed to try to infiltrate the government and raise up Kingdom warriors to “do whatever it takes to bring about Kingdom rule.” Right Wing Watch has some of Sheet’s teaching from a recent political event called “A Gathering of Eagles.”

 

Sheets prophesied about an event that was supposed to take place near Branson, MO called the Wilderness Outcry. He said God told him the event might start another great awakening. Eventually, the event was cancelled due to lack of funding.

I continue to be amazed that evangelicals are joining with Gingrich given that the campaign thus far has been dependent on gambling profits via the donations of Sheldon Adelson. Sheets has had some harsh words for gambling in the past, writing in his book Releasing the Prophetic Destiny of a Nation:

The curse of Horace is linked with Freemasonry. We asked the Lord to blind the evil eye linked with this curse and the corruption of gambling so that it would not overtake Louisiana completely. (p. 239)

The corruption of gambling is paying for the campaign of the man Sheets is now endorsing.

NARTH at odds with Exodus over reparative therapy

Historically, the National Association for the Research and Therapy (NARTH) has considered Exodus an ally in the social discussion of sexual orientation change efforts. Until recently, Exodus sold reparative therapy books in their bookstore but recently removed them. Also, Alan Chambers recently told an audience at the Gay Christian Network conference that

The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could  never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction.

I asked Alan Chambers about the reason for the removal of the reparative therapy books and he told me that Exodus wants to be clear that Christian discipleship is how they want to be known. He also said that he has respect for reparative therapy observations but added

The reason I removed RT books from Exodus Books is because I don’t agree with using this research as a means to say that “this” is how homosexuality always develops, “this” is the primary means in which to deal with it and this is “the” outcome you can expect.  Too, Exodus, as a whole, is not a scientific or psychological organization…we are a discipleship ministry and that is where I think our strength is and energy should be focused.

Apparently, these developments are troubling to NARTH leaders. One of them, David Pickup, recently penned an article at the Anglican Mainstream in defense of reparative therapy.  He wrote the article in direct response to the comments by Alan Chambers, noted above. Pickup writes:

Authentic Reparative Therapy really works. It works to help men change their sexual orientation, naturally dissipate their homoerotic feelings, and maximize their heterosexual potential.

However, there is evidence from the Exodus ministry that could be signaling an unawareness of this important message. Exodus has indicated a significant change in their views and policies as evidenced by the remarks of Exodus President Alan Chambers at the Gay Christian Network Conference last week. The official commentary on the peter-ould.net website has brought this to our attention. I believe their interpretation of Alan Chamber’s remarks is correct.

Chambers’ remarks essentially indicate that:

1. Exodus will no longer indicate or specifically claim that change from Gay to 100% straight is possible for anyone except for a few rare cases.

2. Exodus has apologized and will continue to do so for making these unrealistic claims, which they now believe have contributed toward misinformation, hurtfulness and homophobia.

3. Exodus will work to achieve a deeper understanding of the truth of homosexuality, which will allow them to minister more effectively and compassionately to those dealing with homosexuality.

Pickup then says something that will leave Exodus and NARTH watchers in disbelief.

In my experience, Exodus has, quite unintentionally for the last 20 years, failed to understand and effectively deal with the actual root causes of homosexuality and what leads to authentic change. I laud their willingness to admit their naiveté’, but I do not see anything so far that indicates they now truly understand the psychological, developmentally-based causes of homosexuality or what produces real change.

According to Pickup, not only is Exodus clueless now, they have been for 20 years. I imagine that will come as a shock to those in Exodus who have been given talks straight out the reparative playbook for all those years.

Pickup then offers his slant on why change in orientation should be recognized even if a same-sex attracted person is still same-sex attracted after they say they have changed.

(Parenthetically, let me state it is important that we recognize that just because a man might feel occasional sexual attractions towards men does NOT mean significant and real change has not occurred. Let’s take other challenges common to many people: depression or anxiety for instance. How many people who have successfully dealt with these issues are 100% changed so that they are not susceptible to later feelings of depression or anxiety? Can a therapist guarantee a client will never have those feelings again? Of course not. The same is true for homosexuality. Real change has occurred; however, no apologies should be made if much successful change has occurred even though homosexual feelings occasionally surface.)

I asked Alan Chambers what he meant by saying “99.9” don’t change and he said:

I cannot speak for others who say that temptation or attraction don’t equal orientation.  As a layman with regards to that issue, I tend to link them all together and that is where that 99.9%, non-scientifc/anecdotal/experiential statement comes from.

So what does it matter if some same-sex attraction remains? Doesn’t even a little shift deserve the word change attached to it? Alan seems to want to extract himself from this semantic debate by sticking to experience – the vast majority of people he knows retain attractions to the same sex. Pickup wants to explain that away by making sexual attraction analogous to depression or anxiety. Since he sees same-sex attraction as a disorder which stems from childhood wounds, that may work for him, but it won’t work for those who do not see it that way.

One problem here is political. NARTH wants to be able to say SSA people have changed if they experience a reduction in awareness of SSA and perhaps an experience of opposite sex attraction. This is a kind of change and if left in the therapeutic context, I would not quarrel too much with this (except to say that I don’t agree with the kind of techniques often used to push people this way). However, NARTH does not stay in the therapeutic context. They provide support for political groups who want change to mean complete change from gay to straight. Change is such a volatile concept because a modicum of change in the therapeutic setting is then exaggerated in the political and legal settings to argue against same-sex attraction as something intrinsic to the vast majority of people who experience it.

Pickup then lectures Exodus about theology and calls on them to align closer with reparative therapists.

If Chambers and Exodus do want to truly understand the nature of homosexuality, then they should be open to understanding the psychological underpinnings of these issues and start to recommending qualified therapists who are experts at facilitating significant change. If not, then Exodus will fall into deeper controversy than they are in already. They will be reduced to the myopic ministry of simply helping people to deal with their homosexuality through behavioral changes, which, by the way, reflects the American Psychological Association’s belief about Reparative Therapy: that real change is not possible and people may be helped only in the sense of conforming their behavior to reflect their religious beliefs. In short, Exodus will eventually lose even more effectiveness and begin to flounder.

Pickup even claims that reparative therapy is biblical:

Generally, many Exodus members cannot or will not see that Reparative Therapy is reflective of sound biblical principles. They do not understand shame and its role in the etiology of homosexuality. Not knowing this has led to the unintentional shaming of many same-sex attracted individuals for years, and has actually impeded their progress!

So Exodus has been part of the problem all these years?! I have been to several Exodus conferences over the years, and I can say they work hard not to shame people. The only sessions where I heard any shaming take place was in the sessions where reparative therapists told their audiences that the reason they were SSA was because their fathers didn’t love them and their mothers were smother mothers.

After chastising Exodus for shaming people, he engages in the practice by blaming parents and indicting parents and churches for causing the gay.

Many people of faith do not understand the root causes of homosexuality, which are primarily experienced in childhood. If they did understand, they would have to deal with the truth that they may have contributed to the development of their child’s homosexuality by not supplying enough of their emotional and identity formation needs. In general, parents find it very hard to believe how their child’s upbringing could possibly have been so injurious to them since they loved their child so much. However, loving a child and giving the child the love he needs can be two entirely different things. Parents and churches often find this idea to be unbelievable.

All I can say to Pickup’s last sentence there is: if only. If it were true that evangelicals were more skeptical of these ideas, then I believe Exodus would have changed the tune a long time ago. If only evangelicals were more skeptical, we would not be in such a polarized society where Christianity is synonymous with anti-gay.

As if a few anecdotes prove anything, Pickup closes by citing come quotes he says come from satisfied change customers.

“This is really hard work, but when I focus on healing the pain of what I didn’t get from my father or my friends, something in me heals. Then when I get my male needs met, the SSA just goes away by itself.”

“I really feel more attracted to women now. I want to love a woman and have a family.”

“I still have shame issues, and I once in a while feel attracted to a man, but I know how to work on that and feel affirmed by other men now.” I see myself as a man like other men, and the sexual attractions just sort of go away.”

“This affirmation work and the needs I’m getting filled feels a lot better than sex with a guy.”

I have no doubt that healing from real wounds in life can be beneficial emotionally and it can also lead to a better sense of self-control. So when people who are sexually compulsive find some way to understand themselves better, they can resist whatever pressures push them to risky behavior. However, as Alan Chambers recently noted, such benefit infrequently leads to an elimination of same-sex attraction.

Now if four quotes are sufficient for Mr. Pickup, I will end with four statements from my clients about reparative therapy and their experience.

Our therapist told us after taking our money that there was nothing he could do for us because our family didn’t fit the typical family for a homosexual. He even said that our son would grow out of it because we didn’t fit the mold. (He didn’t grow out of it)

I quit going to Journey into Manhood because it just didn’t last. After a weekend, I did lose some of the same-sex attraction but it always came back. I went to a support group, and saw a reparative therapist and it just didn’t change.

When we took our son to the reparative therapist, he told us that same-sex attraction invariably arises due to a broken relationship with me, his father, and a mother who compensates for this. We were devastated; the man said he was describing our family but he was wrong. My son and I have always been close.

You know, I used to want to change my attractions. I felt like a failure when I saw a hot guy. But the last 3 years have been awesome, I don’t have to pretend or anything. I am who I am and that is an SSA man who loves his wife and kids.

I believe it is possible that Pickup’s clients find an adjustment that suits them. However, the mischief starts when reparative therapists generalize those experiences to gay people as a group.

I am sure it obvious that I think Chambers is much more on the right track than Pickup. Although Exodus continues to refer to reparative therapists and there are member ministries that are quite reparative in their approach, I think a move toward honesty about what people can expect is valuable.

Newt Gingrich favored tax policy requested by gambling industry

In May 1998, Newt Gingrich held a three-tiered fund raiser in the Las Vegas Sands Expo and Convention center, a large casino and hotel complex run by Sheldon Adelson’s company, Las Vegas Sands Corp. Hoping to raise $100,000, Gingrich provided a private briefing to supporters for $2,500, appeared with others for $500 and then held a rally which cost $35 to enter, according to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

According to the Las Vegas Sun, Gingrich struck the right chord during his meetings with Las Vegas politicians and casino interests.

Nevada’s casino industry gained an ally with clout Sunday when House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he would work to block an Internal Revenue Service plan to tax meals casinos provide employees.

While in Las Vegas, Gingrich informed then Rep. John Ensign that he would block an IRS effort to collect taxes on meals provided by casino employers to workers. The gambling industry pushed both Democrats and Republicans to prevent the IRS from collecting these taxes. Eventually an amendment was added to an IRS reform bill which changed IRS rules regarding meals provided to workers. If 50% of employees are allowed to take free meals supplied by hotel owners in order to stay on their post, then all meals provided in that way to all employees would not be taxed as a form of compensation. To read the exact language, see the law with amendment at Section 5002. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the move cost the Treasury $316 million dollars (see below).

The Las Vegas Sun outlined the changes in a June 23, 1998 article:

The exact language of the amendment is still being drafted, but is expected to amend the tax code to allow all employees at a “business premises” to receive meals tax-free as long as more than half of the employees at that location are allowed to receive tax-free meals under current law.

In other words, as long as more than half the employees at a casino are food and drink servers or dealers — job classifications the IRS already recognizes as exempt from the meal-tax — then everyone else at that location is entitled to a tax-free lunch.

That language was drafted after casino operators throughout Nevada said it would solve the problem, Ensign said.

Rep. Ensign gave Speaker Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott ample credit for the change. According the Las Vegas Sun:

In the end, Ensign claims his personal lobbying carried the day.

“I went to the Speaker (of the House, Newt Gingrich), and to Trent (Lott, Senate Majority Leader) and said, ‘We have to have this,”‘ Ensign said in an interview.

A June article in the Review-Journal sounded the same theme:

“This really started getting momentum about the same time (House Speaker Newt) Gingrich came to Las Vegas (in May), and he held a news conference to support us,” Ensign said. “Then we got Lott on board.”

Gingrich also demonstrated favor toward the gambling industry in 2006 when he supported the removal of subpoena power from a commission devised to investigate the gambling industry.

As far as I know, none of these activities are illegal or unethical. I am not insinuating wrongdoing. Rather, I think Speaker Gingrich activities are noteworthy because he is now presenting himself as a Washington outsider. However, while in Washington, he was quite involved in fund raising and working as an insider to respond to donor requests.

The other interesting aspect to this story is the clear tie between Gingrich and the gambling industry. While he courts evangelicals and other family values voters, the lifeblood of his campaign and his non-profit work since the mid-1990s has come from Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands. Gambling profits from the US and Asia are powering the Gingrich campaign. Given that evangelicals consider gambling to be a vice, it seems out of character for them to support a candidate with such a friendly relationship to that industry.

Treasury impact:

The provision [on employer provided meals] is estimated to reduce Federal fiscal year budget receipts by $20 million in 1999, $33 million in 2000, $34 million in 2001, $35 million in 2002, $36 million in 2003, $38 million in 2004, $39 million in 2005, $40 million in 2006, and $41 million in 2007.

Gambling magnate says he expects nothing for his contributions to Gingrich

Of course he says that.

Adelson would defeat his purposes if he said, “I want Newt to keep the Christians and/or Federal government away from my gambling empire.”

ABC News is at least looking into the matter. According to a report from ABC late yesterday, an unnamed source reportedly close to Adelson told ABC News that

Mr. Adelson is “puzzled” by the attention the recent Super PAC gift has received.

The source told ABC News that Adelson wants nothing in return.

Adelson has given over $7 million to Gingrich’s non-profit organizations since the mid-1990s. As I noted yesterday, Gingrich was cozy with the gambling  industry during his time as Speaker of the House. On one occasion, he was instrumental in weakening a commission that investigated the gambling industry.

The ABC report is a bit odd. Why wasn’t the source named? Why did ABC News not interview the Gingrich campaign? How about asking some of Gingrich’s religious right supporters about how they feel about gambling profits being the main lifeblood of their family values candidate.

This denial only raises more questions.