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Adelson Doubles Down on GOP, Will Spend $200-Million in Next Election Cycle

sheldon miriam adelson

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson (Isaac Brekken/WSJ)

Early in the presidential campaign, before anyone had made this prediction, when such a sum seemed preposterous, I said Sheldon Adelson would spend $100-million during the 2012 race.  I was right.

The Wall Street Journal just published a curious interview with Sheldon Adelson in which he both appeared to try to soften his political image by claiming “I’m basically a “social liberal;” while remaining unrepentant for his huge, largely losing $100-million campaign bet on the GOP.

He seems to want to paint a picture of himself as tolerant and open-minded on certain political issues, while remaining hardcore regarding Israel.  I’m betting he’s been influenced by the drubbing the GOP took in the 2012 elections, when its positions on social issues like gay marriage and abortion were deal-breakers for many Americans.  Adelson is trying a bit of revisionism to make himself appear more politically relevant than he otherwise might be.

The question for Adelson should be: how do you make someone worth $21-billion, whose views are out of touch with the 99% in almost every way, palatable and mainstream?  It’s a tough one.

When you examine the issues on which he claims liberal views they follow a pattern: mostly they revolve around medical issues like health insurance and medical research.  He claims to support stem cell research and be pro-choice.  He also claims to support “a socialized-like [sic] health care” though he remains opposed to “Obamacare.”  All of these issues are clearly influenced by his wife, Miriam, who was an Israeli physician when they met and married.  The only issue on which he claims liberal beliefs that isn’t influenced by his wife is immigration reform.  Because of his family history of immigrating to this country and finding economic success, he is broad-minded enough to see the benefit of allowing immigrants to become citizens.

The Journal reporter notes that with Adelson’s publicly recorded campaign donations and those to groups that didn’t have to report donor names, his contributions reached $100-million in this cycle:

Federal campaign finance records show the couple gave about $55 million in publicly reported donations. The money included $20 million to Mr. Romney’s independent super PAC, Restore Our Future, and $15 million to the super PAC that almost single-handedly floated Newt Gingrich’s Republican primary campaign.

In addition, Mr. Adelson gave about $50 million to nonprofit conservative advocacy groups that don’t have to disclose their donors, including the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, according to GOP fundraisers and people close to Mr. Adelson.

Despite being virtually shut-out politically (only Dean Heller won his Nevada senate contest), the gambling mogul intends literally to double-down next time:

Mr. Adelson’s 2012 donations were double what he spent in 2008, and looking ahead, he said, he was ready to again “double” his donations.

“I’ll spend that much and more,” he said in his first extensive postelection interview. “Let’s cut any ambiguity.”

Already by far the largest political donor in 2012, Adelson intends to remain at the top of the pack.  He’s apparently not asking himself the question–whether massive spending by the corporate 1% on behalf of their chosen pro-business favorites doesn’t, in fact, weaken their chances.  Those of you in the U.S. can remember the incessant drumbeat of campaign commercials toward the end of the presidential race promising doom and gloom if Obama were re-elected.  Not only were the commercials downbeat and depressing, they were repeated so often that eventually one tuned them out completely and stopped listening.  In a way, I was glad the ads were so uncompelling.  If they’d had a hook or been the slightest bit creative they might’ve dented Obama’s momentum.

Adelson’s spending threatens to introduce the same type of corruption of which he stands accused in Macao, the engine of his gambling empire.  There he bought government influence through hiring fixers and mobsters to grease the wheels of business.  Just as money was no object there if it wielded influence and the right results; so too here in the U.S. Adelson is pouring hundreds of millions into his version of, if not buying votes, then doing everything but that.  The only saving grace is that we’re still a democracy, while China isn’t.  There you can buy officials or even a political system for a price.  Here, while you can buy officials, it’s harder to buy a presidential election.  There are simply too many voters for that.

I find irony in the fact that Adelson is violating a basic tenet of gambling: never bet against the house.  He feeds his fortune off the delusion of individuals who believe that they can beat the house odds.  While politically, Adelson believes if he pours enough money into gaming the system, he’ll finally end up with his man in the White House.  He bets this money despite the fact that the 99% look and think radically different from him.  Politically, we’re the house and he’s the rube.

I was tickled by Adelson’s pilpul-like need to reinterpret the election results in such a way as to comfort a man who lost huge.  He called Obama’s margin in key swing states as “a rounding error.”  Of course, neglecting the fact that this rounding error resulted in a 5-million vote (3.6%) margin over Romney.  Wishful thinking like this is liable to make Adelson a big loser in many elections to come.  The only beneficiaries will be GOP campaign gurus like Karl Rove, who will rake in millions as their cut of the pie.

{ 22 comments… add one }
  • Bob Mann December 7, 2012, 3:09 AM

    This would be about the equivalent of donating $500 for an American with a net worth of $50k. ‘

    It’s really not a whole lot of money for him.

    • Davey December 7, 2012, 7:15 PM

      Well, if he believes is some “socialized” medicine, that $100 million might have provided healthcare for a good many Americans without coverage, or very little. And teachers, and schools?? Instead, this money (like the suckers at his casinos) went down the toilet.

      • Bob Mann December 8, 2012, 3:21 AM

        The Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation is a private foundation committed to a model of open and highly integrated collaboration among outstanding investigators who participate in goal-directed basic and clinical research to prevent, reduce or eliminate disabling and life-threatening illness.


        Some good has definitely come from some of his money at least.

        • Richard Silverstein December 8, 2012, 3:32 AM

          Nonsense. This isn’t HIS interest, it’s hers. He humors her by giving money to her pet charities.

          • Bob Mann December 8, 2012, 4:43 AM

            I didn’t say it was his interest. I just said that some of his money has brought some good. Whatever his motivations, money spent for medical research of this kind is money well spent in my opinion. Do you disagree?

  • mary December 7, 2012, 4:54 AM

    What is so striking about Adelson is that he seems to think it’s OK to buy politicians and do so publicly. That’s chutzpah.

    • Bob Mann December 7, 2012, 7:50 AM

      Doesn’t this article reach the opposite conclusion? In spite of his spending, he he was “virtually shut-out politically”.

      • Davey December 7, 2012, 7:16 PM

        It does, but Adelson still “thinks” he can buy the Presidency and, of that, he is unashamed.

  • Piotr Berman December 7, 2012, 6:41 AM

    The only success of Adelson during last election cycle was preventing the election of perfectly Zionist Jewish Democrat for the Senate seat in Nevada because as Congresswoman she supported unions in casinos. So there are non-Zionist issues that Adelson cares about. 200,000,000 dollars is a lot in Israel, but in USA politics it is a pocket change.
    Adelson is the laughingstock for the true Establishment part of the Lobby like Haim Saban.

    The true problem is that the real money comes largely from more suave lobbies which are less visible. And while AIPAC is but one of many such lobbies, it is not in direct conflict with banks, medical-industrial complex, energy companies etc.

  • Dr. Ibrahim Soudy December 7, 2012, 9:22 AM

    “The only saving grace is that we’re still a democracy, while China isn’t. ”

    Thanks Richard for making me laugh. America is still a democracy?!………..

    • Tibor December 7, 2012, 11:47 AM

      Well, in this world everything is relative (absolutes are only in the Kingdom of Heaven). So if you doubt US`s democracy let`s see how the other guys are doing in that regard?
      China and Russia, never mind. India, it is so by desire only but in reality it is far too chaotic to be considered so. Likewise Brazil or Mexico, democracies by intention but unconquerable crime practically invalidates that. In fact in all Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Arab and Moslem world (Turkey included) – I can`t think now of any serious candidate (apart perhaps Japan – but the change of prime-ministers every year there tells you something in democracy does not fit intrinsically their “national character” that well. So it`s only Europe. But most of post –Communist East Europe is still struggling to be called real democracies (apart from the Czech Republic) so we are left with West-Europe. However, even there let`s see how democracy will fare if the financial crisis deepen and with it fear of immigrants and xenophobia? Past experience does not provide a too optimistic indicator here.
      So we are left with the “New-world” quartet – US, Canada, Aust. & NZ – and in that group the US is the natural leader. Given that it also saved democracy itself by confronting two immensely dangerous dictatorships – it warrants a little more respect than your cynical sarcasm.

      • Dr. Ibrahim Soudy December 7, 2012, 12:05 PM

        Well, I guess if you are satisfied by being a little less stinking than others then good for you since that is how you measure things.

      • mary December 7, 2012, 2:13 PM

        Tibor, your last sentence is howler.

  • Yanshuf December 7, 2012, 2:12 PM

    Dr. Soudy,
    So that I may better understand your position more clearly would you be able to name 10 democracies for me?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Dr. Ibrahim Soudy December 7, 2012, 2:30 PM

      Dear Sir,

      I was not making a comparison between the US and OTHER countries. I would be glad if the article said that the political system in the US is better than that of China for example. But to say that the US is still a DEMOCRACY and leave it at that is just not consistent with “Corporations are People and Money is Freespeech”. If you want to know what I mean more please watch the vote during the last political convention of the Democratic Party when they added the issue of “Jerusalem” to the platform! If you still call that a democracy then good luck.

      • Davey December 7, 2012, 7:19 PM

        Well said.

        • mary December 8, 2012, 12:22 AM

          America defines democracy as a government where leaders are elected. Of course, that is a preposterous definition.

  • Arie Brand December 7, 2012, 2:52 PM

    Tibor you seem to harbour all kinds of illusions. First you tell us that American aid to Israel is really an investment in American interests and now you suggest that the American political class maintains itself through a genuinely democratic system. In the process you make of the “New World quartet ” (US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) one single category.

    Well, as far as I am concerned these are four countries “separated by a common language” (Shaw). Especially the difference between New Zealand, in my book easily the most democratic country of the four, and the USA couldn’t be greater. But let us talk about American democracy. Here are a few figures for you:

    “Since 1945 the US has had the lowest voter turnout among twenty established democracies: 53 percent against an average of 78 percent for the other nineteen”

    Even in the first Obama election when, so we are told, a wave of hope swept the country the turnout was only around 60 percent.

    Furthermore the American voting system has ensured that “half the Senate represents 15 percent of the population” with a vote in Nevada having seventeen times the weight of one in California.

    In France and Germany, to take two examples, prisoners and ex-prisoners don’t lose their active voting rights.”In America every state bars prisoners from voting, and thirteen states disenfranchise ex-felons for life. Applied to the largest prtison population in the world, these penalties have produced about 4 million disenfranchised citizens, perhaps 2 percent of the voting age population.” Moreover, the registration of these matters seems to be quite messy so that sometimes citizens who have never seen a prison from the inside find themselves disenfranchised.

    I owe these figures to a most interesting public lecture given a few years ago by Adam Fairclough, Professor of American Culture and History at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. You can find it here:

    A few more observations. For me the strongest evidence that the American political class does NOT adequately represent the views of the population at large is the slavish adherence to Israel of that class. Polls give a different picture of “public opinion” (backward as it still is) on this matter.

    Furthermore, though some people believe that Australians are Americans who happen to live Down Under in reality these countries seem to me quite different. For one thing: organised religion holds far less sway here than is the case in the US. Australia belongs to the most irreligious countries in the world. There are good historical reasons for that but I will not go into these now.

    Also, Australia has, as many West European countries, a genuine social democratic party, imperfect as it is. The question why this is not the case in the US has engaged many pens, to begin with that of the distinguished economist-sociologist Werner Sombart, more than a century ago (“Why is there no socialism in the United States”). Whatever the reasons the idea that the government owes the population a duty of care seems to be far more deeply rooted in Australia than is the case in the US. Hence we have had here, since a long time now, a universal system of Medicare, decent unemployment and disability relief and a means tested old age pension.

    Australia has, like the US, a winner-takes-all voting system rather than proportional representation but to guard against the low voter turnout that is habitual in the US voting is compulsory here.

    Proportional representation is no panacea though the Dutch-American political scientist Arend Lijphart has argued that countries with genuine proportional representation are generally more democratic than the “winner takes all” category (the same scholar has also argued however that this electoral system fails when it comes to great historical decisions such as, for instance, for the Netherlands giving independence to Indonesia – one could point here to Israel as well say I).

    Obviously folk in New Zealand are of the Lijphart conviction. They changed their “winner takes all” system not all that long ago to one of proportional representation.

  • dickerson3870 December 7, 2012, 4:14 PM

    RE: “I’m basically a social liberal” ~ Adelson

    MY COMMENT: Right, and I’m basically a monkey’s uncle! ! !

    SEE: “Why GOP Mega-Donor Sheldon Adelson Is Mad, Bad and a Danger to the Republic”, By Rick Perlstein, Rolling Stone, 4/10/12

    [EXCERPTS] . . . Adelson’s anti-union mania (I would argue) is the most important thing to know about him. For it reveals just how crazy, and how unscrupulous, the man is.
    Let’s start at the very beginning. Adelson remembers meeting Gingrich in Washington in 1995, when Gingrich was House Speaker and Adelson was lobbying to get the U.S. embassy in Israel moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Other reports have them being introduced in 1996 by a far-right anti-union operative in Nevada who worked for Adelson. Details of the subsequent courtship are murky, although the huge favor Gingrich did for Adelson in 1996 by turning off a federal investigation of the gambling industry probably did a lot to cement their friendship.
    Two years later, Nevada conservatives sponsored a “Paycheck Protection” ballot initiative – the right-wing term for measures weakening unions by banning them from automatically deducting dues from members’ pay. Adelson was gung-ho for it – and “would spend any amount of money,” D. Taylor, secretary-treasurer of Las Vegas’s Culinary Workers Union Local 226, told me . . .
    . . . In 1999, Adelson closed one casino, the Sands, and completed work on a new one, the Venetian, stiffing so many contractors that there were at one time 366 liens against the property. Taylor, of the Culinary Workers, said he and his colleagues presumed that “like every other casino that had done that, workers in the [closed] hotel would be given priority when the [new] hotel was built.” Instead, Adelson refused even to talk. All this, in a union town like Vegas, was unprecedented. “Even when you’re having battles, you continue to have talks. Shit, we’re talking to the North Koreans right now!” he told me. “The Israelis talk to the Arabs. Talking doesn’t necessarily solve anything, but at least you understand the other guy’s position.” Adelson, not much interested in understanding the other guy’s position, proceeded to launch a campaign against the Culinary Workers that Taylor calls “beyond aggressive.”
    Right before the grand opening of the Venetian, in 1999, the Culinary Workers staged a demonstration on the public sidewalk out front. Adelson told the cops to start making arrests; the cops refused. Glen Arnodo, an official at the union at the time, relates what happened next: “I was standing on the sidewalk and they had two security guards say I was on private property, and if I didn’t move they’d have to put me under ‘citizen’s arrest.’ I ignored them.” The guards once again told the police to arrest Arnodo and again, he says, they refused. The Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis, in town to support the rally, said the whole thing reminded him of living in the South during Jim Crow. . .
    . . . Did I mention Adelson is nuts? But don’t take my word for it – it was George W. Bush who called him “some crazy Jewish billionaire.” . . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/why-gop-mega-donor-sheldon-adelson-is-mad-bad-and-a-danger-to-the-republic-20120410

  • bluto December 8, 2012, 7:30 PM

    OK – I know no one is going to believe this but I think Adelson is going to funnel his money into backing Hillary in 2016.

    Anybody who has seen the Saban Forum 2012 can see why

    Who is going to give Israeli Iran? – of course it is Hillary.

    • mary December 8, 2012, 11:55 PM

      I believe it. It’s a match made in money heaven, actually. Hillary, while having the mentality of a neocon when it comes to foreign policy, is a social liberal just like Adelson, and she has recently been gushing about how much she wants to take a holiday in Israel. Next spring, she will begin speaking publicly about running for POTUS in 2016. Just watch. And of course she will speak at the AIPAC convention and pick up some big donations. You can watch this with your eyes closed :)

  • John Welch December 9, 2012, 9:35 AM

    Given that Adelson’s money went to entirely to losers, he appears to be a one-man stimulus package. Let him double his spending to elect John Birchers, Southern Baptists and allied fundamentalists, anti-science biblical literalists, “birthers”, climate-change deniers, haters of public schools and public libraries: we will beat him again!

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