Gov. Beshear (as if he’d didn’t have more pressing matters) tried last year to seize the Internet domain names of 141 Web sites, deeming them illegal because they provide a beaten path to online gambling sites.
While it’s not sound policy to base economic revival on citizens losing their hat, the greater concern in the issue at hand is government trampling on our constitutionally protected private-property rights. As I asked in a recent Bluegrass Beacon column: “Once the government starts down this path, where will it end?“
Methinks the governor wasn’t nearly as concerned about the gambling issue as he was using government’s power to clamp down on competition for Kentucky’s sites. If not, then why were Kentucky based online gaming sites, including www.twinspires.com (Churchill Downs Inc.’s Web site), left off the government’s seizure list?
The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 against the government, which then continued to waste taxpayers’ resources by appealing to the state Supreme Court. In a technical ruling Thursday, the high court threw out the petition to block the state from seizing the domain names … but on technical grounds: none of the owners of the domain names showed up in court.
While this action opens the door for the commonwealth to refile seizure orders, legal experts are betting that — based on the written opinion of the court, which indicates agreement with the private-property arguments — when an owner shows up at court, that will be the end of the state’s seizure attempt.
In a recent column celebrating the Court of Appeals’ reversal of the state’s decision, I wrote a statement that still seems relevant: “Gov. Steve Beshear apparently thinks the state can ignore the private property rights and due process of the owners of these domain names.”