Casino owner Sheldon Adelson became the symbol of what liberals think is the abuse of the campaign finance system this past winter when he and his wife donated $21 million to the failing presidential campaign of their friend Newt Gingrich. Some on the left even floated the preposterous idea that the pro-Israel billionaire had influenced Gingrich to support the Jewish state even though the former Speaker of the House had a record on the issue that long preceded his connection with Adelson. The intense focus on the Adelsons faded after they pulled the plug on Gingrich, but liberal bashers of the couple will get a new reason to scream after reading this report in the Wall Street Journal. According to the Journal, the Adelsons have given $10 million to a pro-Romney PAC that appears to be the largest single donation to the Republican’s campaign.
Left-wingers and those opposed to Israel will highlight these donations as proof of either the undue influence of the wealthy on our political system or another instance of the fabled pro-Israel lobby manipulating American foreign policy. But while the Adelsons’ contributions are certainly impressive, they are no more sinister than those of left-wing magnates like George Soros or the way the pro-Arab oil lobby throws its cash around. More to the point, despite the effort to paint the couple as somehow being the Republican puppet masters, their participation in the campaign proves just the opposite. Their money may give the ideas and the candidates they like a hearing, but they can’t buy an election.
Contrary to the notion that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision is destroying democracy, letting people put their money where their mouths are only creates more political speech. It doesn’t guarantee any outcome. All of the Adelsons’ money couldn’t convince the public Newt Gingrich was ready for the White House. And even though the Journal says the couple plan on donating more than $100 million to conservative causes and candidates, it isn’t likely that they can buy office for anyone else either. What they can do, however, is to help ensure that the beliefs they cherish — principally support for Israel — are not drowned out in the chaos of the electoral hurly burly. The willingness of the Adelsons to pony up for Romney also makes it a given that unlike in 2008, the Obama campaign’s financial juggernaut will not dominate the airwaves.
The Adelsons are also sending an important signal to other conservatives about the need to rally around the winner of the GOP nomination. There were many predictions that a Romney victory would alienate the Republican base and cause contributors to his rivals to sit out the general election. But the decision of the Adelsons to go all in on the Romney campaign is just one more indication that Republicans are uniting behind their nominee.