Both the Guardian and Politico ran stories today about Sheldon Adelson, last seen triggering the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s rapid self-destruction, and the GOP’s growing panic over his increasingly obvious absence from the primary process—or his money’s, really.
Adelson, who spent upwards of $100 million trying (and failing) to sway the 2012 presidential election, is essentially a single-issue candidate: His driving concern is not only maintaining but supplementing the diplomatic and military cover that the United States offers the state of Israel. The Palestinians, he has said, are an “invented people” whose sole purpose “is to destroy Israel.”
The casino magnate has not yet graced a Republican candidate with his largesse in this election, though he is thought to favor Marco Rubio. Here is a delightful passage from a New York magazine story on Adelson this fall:
Marco Rubio reportedly phones Adelson every other week. “Rubio calls and says, ‘Hey, did you see this speech? Did you see my floor statement on Iran? What do you think I should do about this issue?’ ” says one person close to Adelson. “It’s impressive. Rubio is persistent.”
Anyway, Politico reports that Adelson is “waiting to see how [Rubio] fares in a few more primaries.” (Wouldn’t want another $100 million to go to waste!) That reluctance, however, has begun to agitate Republican operatives who see Adelson’s millions as the potential antidote to Donald Trump. “Nobody knows exactly why he’s still on the sidelines or when he might come off,” one Adelson-affiliated operative told Politico, “but the party needs him to get in the game before it’s too late.”
Adelson’s hesitation may also have something to do with the fact that he is embroiled in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit, filed against his company, Las Vegas Sands, by Steven Jacobs, the former CEO of Adelson’s casinos in Macau, a special administrative region off the southern coast of China. In the suit, which the Nevada gaming board is watching carefully, Jacobs claims that he was fired because he tried to disentangle Adelson’s business from organized crime groups in China and stopping the bribery of Chinese officials. From the Guardian:
The case, which is scheduled to be heard in June, a month before the Republican convention that will appoint the party’s nominee, potentially threatens the gambling licences of his Las Vegas casinos.
If it goes all the way to full trial and the allegations are found to have merit, that would open the door to accusations that Adelson’s political donations have been made with tainted money. The billionaire was last week ordered to give 49 hours of pre-trial depositions beginning this week. That order came the day after Adelson failed in his attempt to have the judge in the case, Elizabeth Gonzalez, removed for alleged bias. That in turn is linked to the billionaire’s purchase of the Review-Journal.
Adelson spent $140m on the paper, somewhere around $60m more than it is considered to have been worth. That has mystified many in Nevada politics. It is possible that Adelson purchased the Review-Journal to influence Las Vegas and state politics. He has campaigned against a publicly funded conference centre to rival one he owns and, in something of a contradiction, is attempting to win public financing to bring an NFL franchise to Las Vegas.
In the meantime, Republicans will continue to twiddle their thumbs. “If you had told me months ago that he would not have made a major play in the presidential race by this point, I would have been shocked,” one fundraiser, who has met with Adelson, told Politico. “I thought he was going to do it after that Vegas debate.” The GOP debate in December was hosted at Adelson’s Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino.
According to Politico, however, some Rubio rivals suspect that Adelson is already backing the non-profit Conservative Solutions Project, which the Wesleyan Media Project reports has spent at least $7.1 million on ads supporting Rubio. Of course, the Conservative Solutions Project is not to be confused with the Conservative Solutions super PAC, with which it shares some staff, and which raised almost $33 million for Rubio last month while spending $27 million.