Consider this: billionaires suck.
Income inequality is at an all time high. The world’s 80 richest people have as much wealth as the poorest 50 percent. By 2016, Oxfam International predicts the richest one percent of people will own more than every other human on the planet. Billionaires, however, are not a necessary part of our great economy. They are, in fact, a giant vacuum sucking wealth from those who create it, and hoarding it until there’s none left for the rest of us.
So it’s time this circle-jerk of policy creation and wealth hoarding was opened up to the masses. In the third installment of Gawker’s ongoing series, the Billionaire Shit List, we peek inside the world of Sheldon Adelson, the world’s 18th richest man.
Who is he?
Sector he made his fortune?
How much is he worth?
$31.4 billion (699,332 times the net worth of the average American).
What is he known for?
Adelson, now 82, was born poor in the Dorchester section of Boston and quickly forgot his humble roots after making a bunch of money with the development of a computer trade show in Las Vegas. In the late 1980s, he bought the Sands Casino, and rapidly began expanding it. He now owns The Venetian and The Palazzo, as well as a casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, one in Singapore, and one of the most expensive-to-build resorts in the world: The Sands Macao.
Is he evil?
How evil is he?
Very evil. As Adelson amassed billions, he also became increasingly convinced that Democrats were a force out to destroy the world, especially Israel. “I didn’t leave the Democrats,” Adelson once wrote. “They left me.” Over time, he’s become known for using his money and power to skew the political landscape, second only to the Koch Brothers in the level of control he has over the Republican Party.
Adelson has spent hundreds of millions trying to get extreme right-wingers in office. But unlike the Koch brothers, Adelson isn’t very good at organizing a real movement. The Koch’s—whatever you think of their politics—were at least smart in how they spent their millions, creating an entire political “grassroots” faction of the Republican Party from scratch (the Tea Party). Adelson operates more like a Republican sugar daddy, flying candidates to Vegas to meet him in his office, or to Israel so they can see heart at the center of his politics.
The current crop of Republican presidential candidates are equally terrified by and enamored with Adelson. He represents their interests, but he can also make or break a campaign. In 2012 he spent $20 million supporting Newt Gingrich, nearly derailing Romney’s primary run. This year, every candidate is doing their best to woo him. Marco Rubio calls Adelson every other week to try to get his support. When Jeb Bush hired a foreign policy advisor who was critical of Israel’s diplomatic actions, Adelson forced Bush to issue an apology.
To some degree, Adelson is more liberal than the Koch brothers—he’s identified himself as progressive on most social issues. In other ways, he’s just as conservative, hoping his money will convince candidates to support lower taxes on the rich.
When it comes to Middle Eastern politics, Adelson is outright batshit. He’s vocally supported the idea of the U.S. preemptively dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran to prevent the country from developing their own nuclear technology. A “two-state solution” to him in Israel is nonsensical because, to Adelson, Palestine is not a state, and “Palestinian” isn’t even a legitimate label for Palestinians because they’re an “invented people” whose sole purpose is to destroy Israel.
Given his radical views, it’s a bit disconcerting that he’s best buds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two often dine together after Netanyahu’s U.N. speeches, at which Adelson is usually given a front-row seat.
Israel doesn’t have Super PACs so Adelson has figured out other ways to influence the country’s politics. He started a free daily newspaper, Israel Hayom, in 2007, which now has the largest circulation of any paper in the country. It’s essentially a propaganda rag for Netanyahu—locals refer to it as Bibiton (as in Bibi Netanyahu, the prime minister’s nickname).
Adelson has also helped funnel $50 million into trying to stop the growing Boycott Divest Sanction movement on college campuses.
Additionally, Adelson’s business practices are pretty shady. He’s dodged billions of taxes by funneling his money through 30 trusts. To get his mega-casino complex built in Macao, he likely bribed Chinese officials. And his labor standards in the U.S. are not great: he’s actively fought unionization at all of his casinos, and has refused to negotiate with a union at his casino in Pennsylvania even after he was ordered to do so by the National Labor Relations Board.
Even if, one day, Adelson decided to spend all of his money adopting puppies from inhumane animal shelters instead of helping turn the U.S. into an oligarchy, it wouldn’t make up for the evil required to make his billions in the first place.
Modern-day casinos are, essentially, one of the great American scams. They steal from the poor, and the towns the poor live in, with promises of wealth at an individual and municipal level. Casinos sell the idea that the lives of capitalism’s underclass can be made better with a little luck, only to take more of each person’s money when one buys into the dream. Similar promises are made to municipalities—local governments are lobbied to believe that if only casinos are allowed to make people like Adelson rich, governments will soon see a light at the end of the austerity tunnel. That wealth almost never materializes. The house always wins.
[Image via Getty]