Is Sheldon Adelson Harming U.S. Interests by Pouring Money Into Republicans?

The casino magnate is proving to be an anti-Obama force to be reckoned with.

Natasha Mozgovaya
Natasha Mozgovaya
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Natasha Mozgovaya
Natasha Mozgovaya

The New York Times slammed casino magnate Sheldon Adelson on Sunday, accusing him of pouring money into a political agenda that is "wildly at odds" with the American nation's needs.

In an article published on Sunday, the New York Times wrote that Adelson was "the perfect illustration of the squalid state of political money, spending sums greater than any political donation in history to advance his personal, ideological and financial agenda, which is wildly at odds with the nation’s needs."

The article stated that "Mr. Adelson has made it clear he will fully exploit the anything-goes world created by the federal courts to donate a “limitless” portion of his $25 billion fortune to defeat the president and as many Democrats as he can take down."

Under the headline, "What Sheldon Adelson wants," the New York Times suggests a number of reasons why the billionaire is donating a "limitless" sum to defeat the president and as many Democrats as he can take down.

First, it explains, Adelson is disgusted by the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which, it explains, is supported by President Obama and most Israelis. "He considers a Palestinian state “a steppingstone for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people,” and has called the Palestinian prime minister a terrorist. He is even further to the right than the main pro-Israeli lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which he broke with in 2007 when it supported economic aid to the Palestinians", said the article. "[Republican presidential candidate Mitt] Romney is only slightly better, saying the Israelis want a two-state solution but the Palestinians do not, accusing them of wanting to eliminate Israel. The eight-figure checks are not paying for a more enlightened answer".

Another answer to the question of what Adelson wants is profit - he is concerned over Obama's plans to raise taxes for the wealthy. The article notes that in Macau the tax rate is zero for Adelson's business, so he pays 9.8 percent U.S. corporate tax instead of 35 percent. "For such a man", the article concludes, "at a time when there are no legal or moral limits to the purchase of influence, spending tens of millions is a pittance to elect Republicans who promise to keep his billions intact."

Much has been said about Adelson's influence in Israel, particularly on his ties with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his ownership of the free daily newspaper "Israel Hayom" and his vindictive clash with Channel 10. But all that attention has been dwarfed by his single-man massive cash influx to the U.S. Republican presidential campaign, which even prompted Republican Senator John McCain to express concern last weekend over the influence of "foreign money" on the American presidential race – in a less than subtle referral to Adelson's casino in Macau.

When sources in Adelson's camp clarified to the "Wall Street Journal" that he would donate whatever it takes to unseat Obama, whose policies he perceives as socialist-like and dangerous to the U.S., he was featured as a villain in the Democratic camp. An email soliciting donations from Obama supporters quoted Adelson in an interview with Forbes saying, "I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections. But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it." The Democrats' email proclaimed that the tycoon must be stopped.

So how much does it cost for one person to buy a presidential election? That question was asked by MSNBC's Martin Bashir, who also answered himself: "71 million dollars and counting". Bloomberg View columnist William Cohan echoed that sentiment. "It's a kind of new normal that makes me very uncomfortable... It feels like buying a democracy," he said.

McCain told PBS that "Much of Mr. Adelson's casino profits that go to him come from his casino in Macau, which says that obviously, maybe in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American political campaign." It was interesting point, raising the question of how America's foreign policy could be impacted given that China holds most of its foreign debt and much of Adelson's profits come from his casino in Macau, China.

Officials in the Obama camp rejected the Super PAC system, but ended up endorsing a Super PAC of its own, claiming they can't let the rival enjoy such an advantage. Following these elections, attempts will probably be made to restore balance to the system of political contributions that created "Super-PACs."

The question that has not been asked - for obvious reasons - is whether Adelson's ambition to influence the election's outcome in such a blunt way will exacerbate existing anti-Semitic stereotypes. This is a question one of Adelson's good friends, Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, can answer.

CEO Sheldon Adelson speaks at a news conference for the Sands Cotai Central in Macau, on April 12, 2012.Credit: AP