Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire magnate whose $70 million in campaign donations this election season exemplify for many what is wrong with campaign finance rules, has given a rare public interview to the political journal Politico to offer his own thinking about his spectacular wealth and outsize political influence.
Adelson has already given as much as $70 million in this presidential election, “and he plans to spend more — perhaps as much as $100 million — by Election Day,” Politico notes.
Adelson is willing to do “whatever it takes” to defeat President Barack Obama, he said. “I don’t believe one person should influence an election. So, I suppose you’ll ask me, ‘How come I’m doing it?’ Because other single people influence elections.”
The 2012 election season has seen an unprecedented frenzy of spending in the wake of the 2010 Supreme Court “Citizens United” decision that equated spending on political communications to free speech itself, and thus declared federal limits on donations to private initiatives that support candidates for public office during an election to be unconstitutional.
In this cash-flush political environment, Adelson is “by far the biggest donor to the web of secretive groups that are adding nearly $1 billion to the more traditional spending by the Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee,” Politico notes.
And that profligate spending has earned him no small measure of influence. Politico dubbed him an “impresario of the right.”
“He’s the man of the hour,” according to an unnamed “Republican official who has visited him in Vegas many times.”
“Everyone’s trying to get in to see him — every candidate, every PAC director, every campaign committee, every super PAC guy. When you’re giving out money the way he is, everyone wants a piece of the pie,” the official told Politico.
In part, Adelson explains his political involvement as a response to what he sees as mistreatment of himself and his company by government law-enforcement bodies, especially related to leaks to The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal of federal investigations into possible financial impropriety in Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp.
“When I see what’s happening to me and this company, about accusations that are unfounded, that kind of behavior… has to stop,” Adelson said.
He believes the leaks are intended to make him “toxic so that they can make the argument to the Republicans, ‘This guy is toxic. Don’t do business with him. Don’t take his money.’ Not all government employees are leakers, but most of the leakers are government employees.”
Other issues are also close to Adelson’s heart as he opens his wallet this election season, including Israel, opposition to unions, opposition to the White House practice over several administrations of appointing “czars” as presidential policy advisors.
He is worried about “any man that sets up a shadow government, not accountable to anybody. …What are the czars, if they’re not a substitute for the secretaries of Commerce, of State, of Interior? They’re not under any rules, they’re just consultants to him in his office. And then he’ll come along and say, ‘Well, Bush did it.’ But that’s not the way the government is supposed to be run.”
He also spoke of lingering anger over Obama’s January 2009 remonstration of finance executives who receive federal bailouts and shouldn’t “go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime.”
“From that point on, Vegas started to go down,” Adelson said. “And he’s got the nerve, the chutzpah, to come here and raise money here. He should follow his own advice and not come to Vegas. He hurt me. He hurt 200,000 people working in the hospitality industry in this town.”
The interview touched on Adelson’s relationship with Israel, including his ownership of the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, which Adelson suggested was “too fair. We intended to make it fair and balanced, because the other newspapers are so far to the left. The problem in education and in the press is that everybody is to the left.”
He has “accompanied 205 congressmen and senators to Israel,” Adelson said. “So, I spend a week with each one of ’em. So, you must know that I have a lot of friends. And why do I have a good friendship with them? Because I never ask ’em for anything — never. And everybody says to me, ‘You’re the only guy that does something for us that never asks for anything.’”
So powerful is Adelson’s influence that he has managed to force cooperation among disparate right-wing groups merely through the threat of withdrawing his support.
“Adelson has played a previously unreported role that has helped maximize the outside groups’ muscle,” Politico writes. “He has insisted that they coordinate their efforts, making the spending more efficient. ‘If word got back to him that a group wasn’t cooperating, he’d cut them off,’ said a top official at one of the groups, who deals personally with Adelson. ‘It’s to maximize the dollars. You don’t want repetition. You don’t people doubling up. He doesn’t want to feel like his money is wasted.’”