As I wrote earlier this week, given the depth of his political involvement on behalf of Republican candidates it’s hardly surprising to find that casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is in the crosshairs of the liberal media these days. Adelson’s billions are derived from vastly profitable — and entirely legal — gambling enterprises in Las Vegas and Macao, China but there is an ongoing effort to depict him as a shady character with whom politicians should not associate. The investigation about possible bribery of Chinese officials, which the New York Times spread over their front page on Tuesday, is a serious matter but the allegation remains more a matter of assumptions of misbehavior than any proof. But that has not stopped Democratic groups from trying to brand Adelson as toxic or even repeating other outrageous and palpably false charges about him for which some have been forced to apologize. Now the Times has escalated the campaign with an editorial calling on Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to distance themselves from Adelson and, no doubt, not take any of his campaign contributions.
The hypocrisy of the left’s assault on Adelson is so obvious it barely needs to be mentioned. Adelson is not nearly as shady a character as left-wing financier George Soros, whose activities have included international currency manipulation that sent some countries over the edge in the past. No one questioned whether it was wise for John Kerry to accept Soros’s money in 2004 as part of the billionaire’s crusade to defeat George W. Bush. Nor did anyone question his contributions to the Democrats’ successful get out the vote campaign in 2008. The Times did not speculate then whether Soros’s real agenda involved his business interests, as they do now about Adelson. Instead, they took him at his word that his commitment was ideological. The only real difference between the two is that Soros backs left-wing politicians and causes while Adelson has dedicated his financial resources to supporting Israel and conservatives.
As proof of its allegation that Adelson is up to no good, the Times editorial regurgitates the same story that was the only truly damning aspect of their several-thousand-word investigative feature. Ten years ago, Adelson called then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and persuaded him to shelve a largely meaningless Congressional resolution that opposed China’s hosting the 2008 Olympics because of their dreadful human rights record.
The Delay story is interesting because it is supposed to depict how Adelson uses his power to affect policy but it does nothing of the kind. Adelson and Delay were in the wrong here but even if the resolution had passed, it would have changed nothing about the Olympics or U.S.-China relations. Treating Adelson as if he’s the sole reason for the decision to put aside our concerns about Chinese human rights abuses and concentrate on doing business there gives him too much credit. That’s a political trend that predated the phone call to DeLay and for which both parties and the entire American business community is to blame. As the recent story about the way Romney dismissed Adelson’s requests that he promise to pardon convicted spy Jonathan Pollard or immediately move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem demonstrate, all his money buys him is access, not results.
The irony here is that unlike many large political contributors it’s clear that Adelson is not doing this to advance his personal interests but the ideas and people he supports. Israel’s security has been Adelson’s obsession and it has led him to not just give money to opponents of President Obama but to a raft of important Jewish and Israeli charitable causes. Indeed, if he was not an opponent of Obama and his policies toward Israel, there’s little doubt that the Times would have no interest in his activities and would merely refer to him as a philanthropist.
The goal of liberals in painting Adelson as a villain is to gain a tactical advantage in the fall election since his money is helping the Republicans. But their case against him rests more on assumptions about gambling and the corrupt business culture of China than on proof of anything he has done. Adelson’s legal campaign contributions are no more sinister than those of rich liberals who line up to pay for the right to hobnob with President Obama at parties in Hollywood and New York.
Adelson may be an easy target but the campaign to demonize him using language about politicians being “in thrall” to him has an unpleasant odor of prejudice. Instead of Romney worrying about associating with Adelson, the Times and the Obama campaign need to be careful about the way they are playing into traditional stereotypes about Jews and money and libels about the “Israel Lobby.”