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.