Susan Shelley for Congress in California's 30th District. Link to


Occasional columns by the author of The 37th Amendment: A Novel

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How the First Amendment Came to Protect Topless Dancing. By Susan Shelley. Kindle edition.


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The Bill Bennett Mystery

By Susan Shelley

Why would the casino industry want to discredit Bill Bennett?

Somebody gave Newsweek and the Washington Monthly forty pages of confidential casino documents detailing a very good customer's gambling habit, and that's not something you see every day, or ever.

To strike at a man publicly, in a manner calculated to seriously damage his career and credibility, somebody had to be very angry, or very frightened, or perhaps both. This was the kind of attack designed to neutralize a dangerous enemy.

But why was Bill Bennett an enemy to the casino business?

Perhaps the casino industry was afraid that Bennett's organization, Empower America, was making some headway in its opposition to the spread of legalized gambling.

Not likely. It's laughable to think the casino business would drop a nuclear bomb on Bill Bennett just to silence the clucking of hens like that.

Perhaps Bennett owed a lot of money and tried to pressure the casinos into a negotiated settlement with a booming "Do you know who I am?!"

Not likely. For one thing, Bennett told Newsweek he doesn't owe anybody anything, and none of the magazine's sources disputed that. For another, a scene like that would end with casino executives pounding on the carpet and laughing until their sides split.

Perhaps Bennett made a few phone calls to complain to the powers-that-be in the casino business about those TV commercials that show women coming to Las Vegas for secret one-night stands. "What happens here, stays here," the ads promise.

Now we're getting somewhere.

Less than a week after the Bennett story broke, the Associated Press reported that the Treasure Island hotel-casino is replacing its family-friendly pirate battle with a new show featuring sexy sirens--"part wench, part temptress" reads the casting notice--in a "sensual modern interpretation" of the Battle of Buccaneer Bay.

In addition, Caesar's Palace has designated its Venus pool for topless sunbathing, and Cirque du Soleil's upcoming show at the New York-New York hotel is billed as a "provocative exhibition of human sensuality, arousal and eroticism."

Got the picture?

Suppose Bill Bennett, a man who advocates traditional family values, told someone in the casino industry that Las Vegas was putting its convention business at risk by dispensing with the coy wink and openly flaunting that the town is a free-wheeling fantasyland of wild sex and no consequences.

Suppose Bill Bennett tried to explain that family-values groups might organize pressure campaigns to stop businesses from holding conventions in a city that home-wrecks for a living.

Suppose Bill Bennett's friendly words of warning were interpreted as a direct threat against the livelihood of the whole place and everybody in it.

Boom. Neutralized.

May 10, 2003

Susan Shelley is the author of the novel The 37th Amendment, which includes an appendix on "How the First Amendment Came to Protect Topless Dancing." Both are now available in eBook editions from

© Copyright 2003 by Susan Shelley

Click the title to read the column

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Why There Is No Constitutional Right to Privacy, and How to Get One

Judicial Activism and the Constitutional Amendment on Marriage

Marijuana, Prohibition and the Tenth Amendment

A Retirement Plan for Sandra Day O'Connor

How the First Amendment Came to Protect Topless Dancing

The Great Death-Defying California Recall Election

The Meaning of CNN's Confession

The Bill Bennett Mystery

Susan Shelley is running for Congress in California's 30th District, the west San Fernando Valley.

Visit Susan's campaign website by clicking here.

Read Susan Shelley's blog:
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