Jewish Democratic group sues Sheldon Adelson for ‘legal sadism’
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Jewish Democratic group sues Sheldon Adelson for ‘legal sadism’

US lawsuit says billionaire’s insistence on pressing ‘frivolous’ libel charges against National Jewish Democratic Council bankrupted it

Casino magnate Sheldon G. Adelson in attendance at the 4th Annual Champions Of Jewish Values International Awards Gala at Marriott Marquis Times Square on May 5, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Steve Mack/Getty Images, via JTA)
Casino magnate Sheldon G. Adelson in attendance at the 4th Annual Champions Of Jewish Values International Awards Gala at Marriott Marquis Times Square on May 5, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Steve Mack/Getty Images, via JTA)

WASHINGTON, United States (JTA) — A US group that once was the umbrella for Jewish Democrats says it was brought down by a libel lawsuit filed against it by billionaire Sheldon Adelson and is countersuing now that Adelson has lost.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in a federal court in New York by the National Jewish Democratic Council and its former chairman, Marc Stanley, charges the casino magnate with “legal sadism” for pursuing his suit launched in 2012, despite multiple losses in lower courts, until a federal appeals court threw it out last November.

“It is now beyond cavil that Sheldon Adelson deliberately abused the courts to try — in his words — to bankrupt the National Jewish Democratic Council for having the temerity to criticize him,” the suit says.

Adelson has already paid legal costs to the defendants after losing his lawsuit. The current suit seeks damages under a statute in Nevada — where Adelson originally filed his suit — that penalizes frivolous lawsuits. The filing does not name an amount but seeks damages to be determined at trial and punitive damages.

David Harris, the president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, speaking to a British journalist outside the NJDC bus in Charlotte N.C., Sept. 3 (photo credit: Ron Kampeas/JTA)
David Harris, the president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, speaking to a British journalist outside the NJDC bus in Charlotte N.C., Sept. 3, 2018.  (photo credit: Ron Kampeas/JTA)

The lawsuit says that Adelson essentially ruined NJDC, driving away donors who were wary about being named in a lawsuit. Its then-director, David Harris, left the organization and politics in part because of the action, the lawsuit contends.

“Today, the NJDC exists only to recover its debt from litigation and pay its bills,” it says.

A new group, the Jewish Democratic Council of America, was established last year in its stead.

Adelson had sued the National Jewish Democratic Council in 2012 over an online petition alleging that the major Republican donor allowed prostitution at his casino in Macau. The petition included a hyperlink to an Associated Press article carrying allegations against Adelson. Much of the legal argument was over whether attaching a hyperlink is a clear enough signal that the defendants were citing available information.

The hyperlink was embedded in an online petition urging Republicans not to take money from Adelson, who in addition to being a major giver to the Republican Party also funds Jewish, pro-Israel, and medical philanthropies.

The linked AP article reported on a lawsuit by a former employee of Adelson alleging that the employee was terminated for, among other reasons, refusing to allow sex workers to work at the casino. Adelson’s Sands Corp. has since reportedly settled with the employee, Steve Jacobs, with a $75 million payout.

A spokesman for Adelson did not respond to a JTA request for comment.

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