Commentary Magazine


Topic: Sheldon Adelson

What Money Won’t Buy Even for Adelson

If you listen long enough to liberals complaining about the Citizens United decision, you’d think the country is being sold lock, stock and barrel to wealthy donors to presidential candidates. But the most publicized political contributor in the country isn’t getting much deference for the big bucks he’s throwing in the direction of Mitt Romney. Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has been pilloried from coast to coast by liberals who don’t like his willingness to put his money where his mouth is and fund Republicans intent on defeating Barack Obama. Adelson is doing nothing more than exercising his constitutional right to political speech, but even he can’t guarantee his candidate will do as he wishes. As Eli Lake and Dan Ephron report in the Daily Beast, Adelson asked Mitt Romney if he’ll pardon convicted spy Jonathan Pollard and move the U.S. embassy to Israel’s capital in Jerusalem and got little satisfaction.

Romney is rightly staying away from talking about pardoning Pollard. An election campaign pledge on that issue would have been inappropriate as it would have politicized a strong case for clemency that many serious people, including former CIA chief James Woolsey, feel is overdue. As for Jerusalem, while Adelson is dead right in calling out the foolishness of a several-decades-old policy, again, Romney is no fool. By saying he will do so in cooperation with the Israeli government, he is keeping his options open. But the real point here is not whether Adelson’s requests were wrong — they weren’t — but the idea that political donors can call in IOUs from candidates is bunk. While his millions will buy Adelson the ability to make his requests in person and, as his spokesman said, an invitation to the White House Chanukah party — they don’t ensure Romney will give him what he wants.

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If you listen long enough to liberals complaining about the Citizens United decision, you’d think the country is being sold lock, stock and barrel to wealthy donors to presidential candidates. But the most publicized political contributor in the country isn’t getting much deference for the big bucks he’s throwing in the direction of Mitt Romney. Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has been pilloried from coast to coast by liberals who don’t like his willingness to put his money where his mouth is and fund Republicans intent on defeating Barack Obama. Adelson is doing nothing more than exercising his constitutional right to political speech, but even he can’t guarantee his candidate will do as he wishes. As Eli Lake and Dan Ephron report in the Daily Beast, Adelson asked Mitt Romney if he’ll pardon convicted spy Jonathan Pollard and move the U.S. embassy to Israel’s capital in Jerusalem and got little satisfaction.

Romney is rightly staying away from talking about pardoning Pollard. An election campaign pledge on that issue would have been inappropriate as it would have politicized a strong case for clemency that many serious people, including former CIA chief James Woolsey, feel is overdue. As for Jerusalem, while Adelson is dead right in calling out the foolishness of a several-decades-old policy, again, Romney is no fool. By saying he will do so in cooperation with the Israeli government, he is keeping his options open. But the real point here is not whether Adelson’s requests were wrong — they weren’t — but the idea that political donors can call in IOUs from candidates is bunk. While his millions will buy Adelson the ability to make his requests in person and, as his spokesman said, an invitation to the White House Chanukah party — they don’t ensure Romney will give him what he wants.

Unlike a great many political donors, Adelson’s political contributions are not primarily related to promoting his business. Instead, he is interested in promoting causes he cares about, principally the security of the state of Israel. The willingness of Jewish Democrats to smear Adelson because he rightly sees President Obama as no friend to Israel is unconscionable, especially because he is well-known for his generosity to a host of non-political issues and charities.

Adelson is hardly alone in his desire to see Pollard freed after 27 years in prison. As I wrote in a COMMENTARY article on the Pollard case published last year, the former U.S. Navy analyst is no hero. He broke his oath to the United States and did much damage to the U.S.-Israel relationship as well as to loyal American Jews who serve in the government. But his punishment was disproportionate–no spy for a friendly government has ever received anything close to a life sentence. Nevertheless, it was foolish of anyone to expect even someone as sympathetic to Israel as Romney to say anything about the case during the election campaign.

As for moving the embassy, that is an evergreen request from pro-Israel contributors and activists of all political stripes. Romney has come closer to pledging to move the embassy than most candidates. It’s an idea that makes sense, because it is absurd for the U.S. to pretend Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital and doing so only allows the Palestinians to go on dreaming that America will someday help them drive the Jews out of Jerusalem. If Romney does move the embassy, it will be a shocking case of a candidate actually keeping a promise that no one expects him to keep. But if, in the unlikely event that happens, it will not be the result of Adelson’s contributions, but a decision on the part of the new administration that President Obama’s desire to distance the U.S. from Israel needs to be symbolically reversed.

But the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn from this discussion is not about the rights and wrongs of Adelson’s requests but how this story effectively debunks liberal myths about campaign contributions. Not only is Adelson not getting his way on these requests, but the Romney campaign isn’t shy about making it clear that even the most beneficent contributor to the candidate’s coffers can expect nothing more than a civil hearing.

Try as they might, liberals will never be able to take money out of politics. But the free flow of political contributions and the speech such money buys rarely results in the quid pro quo that horrified leftists assume such transactions always entail. Adelson is backing Romney because he can’t stand Obama. The only thing he can be sure of getting for his money is helping the chances that the president will be defeated. Beyond that, all he can do is hope his candidate will live up to his promises and do the right thing on those issues where there is no promise. Which puts Adelson pretty much in the same boat as every other citizen, even those without millions to give politicians.

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DCCC Apologizes to Adelson for “Untrue” Attacks

A few weeks ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accused top Republican donor Sheldon Adelson of personally approving and profiting off of prostitution at his Macau casinos. It wasn’t the smartest move, since their charge was based on unsubstantiated allegations from a disgruntled employer who’s been suing Adelson for years. The casino mogul’s attorney immediately slapped the DCCC with the threat of a defamation suit, and now the group has backed off and apologized, according to The Hill:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued an apology to casino mogul and prominent Republican donor Sheldon Adelson on Thursday, after the billionaire threatened to sue the organization over comments insinuating he profited from prostitution at his Chinese resorts.

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A few weeks ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accused top Republican donor Sheldon Adelson of personally approving and profiting off of prostitution at his Macau casinos. It wasn’t the smartest move, since their charge was based on unsubstantiated allegations from a disgruntled employer who’s been suing Adelson for years. The casino mogul’s attorney immediately slapped the DCCC with the threat of a defamation suit, and now the group has backed off and apologized, according to The Hill:

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued an apology to casino mogul and prominent Republican donor Sheldon Adelson on Thursday, after the billionaire threatened to sue the organization over comments insinuating he profited from prostitution at his Chinese resorts.

“In press statements issued on June 29 and July 2, 2012, the DCCC made unsubstantiated allegations that attacked Sheldon Adelson, a supporter of the opposing party,” the DCCC said in an e-mail released Thursday. “This was wrong.  The statements were untrue and unfair and we retract them.  The DCCC extends its sincere apology to Mr. Adelson and his family for any injury we have caused.”

That could not have been an easy apology for the DCCC, but clearly it didn’t want to get tied up in a defamation suit and spend massive sums defending itself during an election year when it can least afford it.

This all could have been avoided if the DCCC was just a little bit more careful in its statements on Adelson. Now that the group had to retract its comments, it pretty much takes the Macau prostitution controversy off the table for Democrats for the rest of the election cycle. Anytime it’s brought up, all the GOP would need to do is point out that the DCCC was forced to apologize after repeating the allegations. Adelson just inoculated himself from one of the only damaging lines of attack Democrats had against him.

By the way, this isn’t the first apology Adelson has received from a Democratic attack group this season.  The NJDC also backed down from its claim last month that Adelson’s money was “dirty” because of the Macau casino allegations, after Jewish American leaders blasted the campaign as partisan and unfair.

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Democrats’ Jewish Problem is Obama

The party line from Democrats this year has been to deny that President Obama is in any trouble of losing Jewish support to Mitt Romney in November. But the announcement that a group of Jewish liberals are seeking to form a group to counter the Republican Jewish Coalition’s campaign against Obama is proof the president is in trouble.

But these Jewish liberal donors who wish to offset the efforts of Romney donors such as Sheldon Adelson are making a mistake if they think all that is needed is to throw some money at the Jewish market. If the RJC’s “buyer’s remorse” ad campaign has traction it is because Jewish voters know that President Obama is, as veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller wrote yesterday, “not in love with the idea of Israel.” This is not, as one Democrat told Politico, a case of Obama being “swift-boated.” The GOP isn’t making up novel criticisms of the president so much as it is simply highlighting what everyone already knows

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The party line from Democrats this year has been to deny that President Obama is in any trouble of losing Jewish support to Mitt Romney in November. But the announcement that a group of Jewish liberals are seeking to form a group to counter the Republican Jewish Coalition’s campaign against Obama is proof the president is in trouble.

But these Jewish liberal donors who wish to offset the efforts of Romney donors such as Sheldon Adelson are making a mistake if they think all that is needed is to throw some money at the Jewish market. If the RJC’s “buyer’s remorse” ad campaign has traction it is because Jewish voters know that President Obama is, as veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller wrote yesterday, “not in love with the idea of Israel.” This is not, as one Democrat told Politico, a case of Obama being “swift-boated.” The GOP isn’t making up novel criticisms of the president so much as it is simply highlighting what everyone already knows

The credibility of those who assert that Obama is the best friend Israel ever had in the White House is undermined not only by the memory of the fights he picked with the Jewish state over the course of his first three years in office or by the fact that he was determined to distance the United States from Israel in an attempt to draw a contrast between his policies and those of his predecessor. The fact that the president has been forced to resort to a Jewish charm offensive intended to erase these incidents from the public’s memory is testimony to the White House’s concern that there will be a political price to be paid for the distance Obama created by himself and the Israeli government.

As Politico noted in the same article, such Republican efforts to eat into the Democrats’ historic advantage among Jewish voters are not new. Major investments were made four and eight years ago to no avail as John Kerry and Barack Obama won huge Jewish majorities that were second only to African-Americans in terms of margins for the Democrats.

The difference this year is not about Republican campaign tactics. It is about the Democrats’ heightened vulnerability. For decades, Jewish Republicans longed for another presidential candidate like Ronald Reagan whose percentage of Jewish votes has not been equaled in the last 30 years. But what they really needed was not another Reagan but another Jimmy Carter. While Obama may not be as unpopular among Jews as Carter, there is little question that his open hostility to Israel’s government will ensure a drastic reduction from the 78 percent of Jewish votes he won in 2008, a loss that could put battleground states like Florida or Pennsylvania in jeopardy for the incumbent. A Democratic campaign targeting Jews may stem some of the bleeding, but their problem is not Adelson, his money or the RJC, let alone Mitt Romney. The Democrats’ only liability as far as Jewish voters are concerned is the man on the top of their ticket.

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Obama Buyer’s Remorse Not About Adelson

Ever since the confrontation between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in May of 2011 about the president’s attempt to dictate that the 1967 lines would be the starting point for future Middle East peace negotiations, speculation about the impact of this on the president’s re-election has been intense. Since then, numerous polls have shown it is highly unlikely that Obama would get anywhere close to the 78 percent of the Jewish vote he received in 2008. Republicans are eager to take advantage of this factor in November, much as they did last year when a special election in New York’s 8th congressional district went to the GOP over this issue. But leave it to the New York Times to focus an article on this almost completely on billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson is the centerpiece of an article on the front page of today’s Times about an ad campaign undertaken by the Republican Jewish Coalition highlighting the “buyer’s remorse” felt by many Jews who voted for the president four years ago but will not support him again because of his stands on Israel and the state of the economy. That the RJC would be running such ads in battleground states is hardly surprising, especially because the question of the Jewish vote being a possibly decisive factor in the outcome this year has been a matter of discussion for months. Not only did I write about this in the March issue of COMMENTARY, but just yesterday, Reuters also devoted a feature to the way Jewish voters could make the difference in Florida. But for the Times, it’s all about Adelson, who, despite being mentioned in the headline (“Mogul’s Latest Foray Courts Jews for the G.O.P.”) and the caption to a photo showing the ads, is just one of several RJC supporters who helped underwrite their production and distribution. Though liberal Jews quoted in the article are in denial about the president’s problems, and the paper would like to make it appear this is merely the function of a plutocrat’s whim, the reason why the ads are resonating is that a significant percentage of Jewish voters have been disillusioned by the president’s attitude toward Israel.

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Ever since the confrontation between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in May of 2011 about the president’s attempt to dictate that the 1967 lines would be the starting point for future Middle East peace negotiations, speculation about the impact of this on the president’s re-election has been intense. Since then, numerous polls have shown it is highly unlikely that Obama would get anywhere close to the 78 percent of the Jewish vote he received in 2008. Republicans are eager to take advantage of this factor in November, much as they did last year when a special election in New York’s 8th congressional district went to the GOP over this issue. But leave it to the New York Times to focus an article on this almost completely on billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson is the centerpiece of an article on the front page of today’s Times about an ad campaign undertaken by the Republican Jewish Coalition highlighting the “buyer’s remorse” felt by many Jews who voted for the president four years ago but will not support him again because of his stands on Israel and the state of the economy. That the RJC would be running such ads in battleground states is hardly surprising, especially because the question of the Jewish vote being a possibly decisive factor in the outcome this year has been a matter of discussion for months. Not only did I write about this in the March issue of COMMENTARY, but just yesterday, Reuters also devoted a feature to the way Jewish voters could make the difference in Florida. But for the Times, it’s all about Adelson, who, despite being mentioned in the headline (“Mogul’s Latest Foray Courts Jews for the G.O.P.”) and the caption to a photo showing the ads, is just one of several RJC supporters who helped underwrite their production and distribution. Though liberal Jews quoted in the article are in denial about the president’s problems, and the paper would like to make it appear this is merely the function of a plutocrat’s whim, the reason why the ads are resonating is that a significant percentage of Jewish voters have been disillusioned by the president’s attitude toward Israel.

Framing the issue as one that is merely the result of Adelson’s money does little to illuminate a genuine problem for the Democrats. Though liberals are right to claim the president will carry a majority of Jewish votes this year, even the most optimistic polls show his share of the Jewish vote will decline by 10 percent though the decline may turn out to be much greater than that. Mitt Romney, whose trip to Israel this week will help highlight the differences between him and the president, is likely to get the highest percentage of Jewish votes than any Republican since Ronald Reagan. Though in absolute numbers this may not amount to much, in states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, where the margin between the two candidates will probably be razor thin, this will be meaningful.

The denial of these facts by Obama supporters like J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami, who was given the last word in the piece to claim “there is no such thing as a Jewish problem for the president,” is absurd. But you don’t have to believe the Republican Jewish Coalition to understand that the Obama campaign knows it is in trouble with the Jews. All you had to do was to observe the all-out Jewish charm offensive that the administration has been conducting since Obama’s ambush of Netanyahu last year.

For three years, Obama focused on hammering Israel, picking fights with its government and seeking to tilt the diplomatic playing field in the direction of the Palestinians. But once the New York congressional race and national polls made it plain that Obama was bleeding Jewish votes in a manner reminiscent of Jimmy Carter, the president and his surrogates have been working overtime to persuade Jews to accept the dubious assertion that he is the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House. Those efforts will help contain his losses and, as even the Republicans concede, most Jews are such partisan Democrats and so liberal that there is virtually nothing Obama could do to Israel to cause him to get less than 50 percent of the Jewish vote. But a result that saw his share decline to the mid-60 percent level or lower would be a disaster for the Democrats, and they know it.

The president’s Jewish problem would exist even if there were no Sheldon Adelson. But those who wish to demonize the casino mogul would like to change the subject from Obama’s fights with Israel to Adelson’s money. While Adelson is an easy target, attacks on Republican efforts to tap into Jewish buyer’s remorse won’t make the Democrats’ problems disappear.

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Adelson Threatens DCCC With Libel Suit

It looks like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is learning a lesson about when to choose battles. For example, when you’re going to lob potentially criminal allegations at the seventh richest person in the United States, make sure you have your facts straight first.

The DCCC recently put out a statement insinuating that billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson “personally approved” of prostitution at his Macau casino, and asked, “What will Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor, and House Republicans do with their Chinese prostitution money?”

The statement made it seem like the allegations were confirmed by the Associated Press, when in fact the news organization was just reporting on a lawsuit filed by a fired Adelson employee. Adelson has disputed the charges, and now his attorneys are threatening the DCCC with a defamation suit, according to The Hill:

“We just received and are reviewing Mr. Adelson’s attorney’s letter,” DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said in an email. Ferguson did not respond to a follow-up inquiry.

In late June, the DCCC sent out a release alleging that prostitution money tied to Adelson helped fund the campaigns of Reps. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) and Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), as well as other GOP incumbents. …

“Immediately retract and apologize for defamatory statements falsely accusing Mr. Adelson of encouraging and profiting from prostitution, maliciously branding Mr. Adelson as a pimp who has given ‘Chinese prostitution money’ to your political opponents,” the letter from Adelson’s attorney, first obtained by the Las Vegas Sun, reads in part. “These false allegations constitute libel per se entitling Mr. Adelson to compensatory and punitive damages.”

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It looks like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is learning a lesson about when to choose battles. For example, when you’re going to lob potentially criminal allegations at the seventh richest person in the United States, make sure you have your facts straight first.

The DCCC recently put out a statement insinuating that billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson “personally approved” of prostitution at his Macau casino, and asked, “What will Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor, and House Republicans do with their Chinese prostitution money?”

The statement made it seem like the allegations were confirmed by the Associated Press, when in fact the news organization was just reporting on a lawsuit filed by a fired Adelson employee. Adelson has disputed the charges, and now his attorneys are threatening the DCCC with a defamation suit, according to The Hill:

“We just received and are reviewing Mr. Adelson’s attorney’s letter,” DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said in an email. Ferguson did not respond to a follow-up inquiry.

In late June, the DCCC sent out a release alleging that prostitution money tied to Adelson helped fund the campaigns of Reps. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) and Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), as well as other GOP incumbents. …

“Immediately retract and apologize for defamatory statements falsely accusing Mr. Adelson of encouraging and profiting from prostitution, maliciously branding Mr. Adelson as a pimp who has given ‘Chinese prostitution money’ to your political opponents,” the letter from Adelson’s attorney, first obtained by the Las Vegas Sun, reads in part. “These false allegations constitute libel per se entitling Mr. Adelson to compensatory and punitive damages.”

I’m not usually a fan of libel suits, and there would be a high threshold to meet here as Adelson is a public figure. He might have a solid case for “actual malice” — that the statement was knowingly false and published with the intent to harm — particularly because the lightest bit of fact-checking by PolitiFact earned the DCCC a “pants on fire” label on a similar subsequent statement:

As our Ohio colleagues point out, the allegation that Adelson allowed prostitution at the Macau comes from a fired employee. The DCCC takes that claim and says money from prostitution was included in Adelson’s campaign contributions to GOP congressional incumbents — including Duffy.

There’s no evidence that Duffy received contributions from Adelson, and he has no control over contributions to groups that support him.

“The claim that Adelson’s donations to these other groups amount to ‘Chinese prostitution money’  is dubious enough that inserting the word ‘allegedly’ can’t save it,” PolitiFact Ohio wrote in its assessment.

That holds no matter what name is inserted into the cut-and-paste news release.

You can repeat a claim, but the smell of smoke remains the same. Pants on Fire.

At the very least, Adelson could cause some serious headaches for the DCCC. But would he really want to go through with the suit and open himself up to a discovery process by a group that has its claws out for him?

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NJDC Backs Down on Adelson Attacks

I wrote yesterday about the National Jewish Democratic Council’s self-destructive attack on Sheldon Adelson’s “dirty money.” Since then, it appears that some responsible figures have sat down with the NJDC and gently explained why this campaign was a terrible move. The Jewish Democratic group posted a quasi-mea culpa on its website late yesterday, effectively ending its anti-Adelson campaign (h/t JTA):

Regarding our recent campaign surrounding Sheldon Adelson, we don’t believe we engaged in character assassination; we stand by everything we said, which was sourced from current, credible news accounts. Accusations against Mr. Adelson were made not by us, but by others, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Nonetheless, we regret the concern that this campaign has caused. And in the interest of shalom bayit (peace in our home/community), we are going to take down our petition today. Moving forward, we’ll continue to work hard to fight against the unique threat posed by the outsized influence of certain individual megadonors, which rightly concerns most Americans and most American Jews.

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I wrote yesterday about the National Jewish Democratic Council’s self-destructive attack on Sheldon Adelson’s “dirty money.” Since then, it appears that some responsible figures have sat down with the NJDC and gently explained why this campaign was a terrible move. The Jewish Democratic group posted a quasi-mea culpa on its website late yesterday, effectively ending its anti-Adelson campaign (h/t JTA):

Regarding our recent campaign surrounding Sheldon Adelson, we don’t believe we engaged in character assassination; we stand by everything we said, which was sourced from current, credible news accounts. Accusations against Mr. Adelson were made not by us, but by others, including Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Nonetheless, we regret the concern that this campaign has caused. And in the interest of shalom bayit (peace in our home/community), we are going to take down our petition today. Moving forward, we’ll continue to work hard to fight against the unique threat posed by the outsized influence of certain individual megadonors, which rightly concerns most Americans and most American Jews.

As embarrassing as it is for the NJDC to walk the campaign back, it’s better for them than letting it drag on. Remember, this was the same group that claimed any criticism of Obama’s Israel record amounted to using Israel as a “partisan wedge issue.” Unless the NJDC was willing to publicly call on Alan Dershowitz, the Anti-Defamation League, the Birthright Israel program, AIPAC, and Yad Vashem to cut ties with Adelson, they had no standing to demand Mitt Romney and Republicans to stop taking his donations.

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Jewish Dems Oppose Attacks on Adelson

The National Jewish Democratic Council has called on Republicans to stop accepting donations from billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, after a former employee claimed Adelson’s casino in Macau encouraged prostitution (a charge Adelson denies). Needless to say, this is one of the most dumbfounding political moves the NJDC has made in awhile.

Adelson is one of the top pro-Israel philanthropists in the country; he’s given $50 million to Israel’s Holocaust museum Yad Vashem, and over $100 million to the Birthright Israel program; he’s also been a major contributor to AIPAC and sat on its executive committee. Does the NJDC recommend that Yad Vashem cut ties with its single largest donor? Does it suggest that Birthright Israel stop accepting his contribution checks? Does it demand that AIPAC quit associating with the billionaire?

Or is the “dirty money” directive simply aimed at Republican politicians?

Even Democrats have noted the NJDC’s double standard.

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The National Jewish Democratic Council has called on Republicans to stop accepting donations from billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, after a former employee claimed Adelson’s casino in Macau encouraged prostitution (a charge Adelson denies). Needless to say, this is one of the most dumbfounding political moves the NJDC has made in awhile.

Adelson is one of the top pro-Israel philanthropists in the country; he’s given $50 million to Israel’s Holocaust museum Yad Vashem, and over $100 million to the Birthright Israel program; he’s also been a major contributor to AIPAC and sat on its executive committee. Does the NJDC recommend that Yad Vashem cut ties with its single largest donor? Does it suggest that Birthright Israel stop accepting his contribution checks? Does it demand that AIPAC quit associating with the billionaire?

Or is the “dirty money” directive simply aimed at Republican politicians?

Even Democrats have noted the NJDC’s double standard.

Alan Dershowitz and the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman came out blasting the NJDC for its attacks on Adelson, according to JTA:

The National Jewish Democratic Council wants Republicans, including presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, to stop taking “dirty money” from Adelson because of allegations surrounding his lucrative casino properties in Macau, China.

The “dirty money” jibe, in turn, has seen the NJDC slammed with charges of “dirty politics,” and not just from Republicans. Prominent civil rights attorney Alan Dershowitz and the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman also have called on the Jewish Democratic group to stand down.

If evidence actually emerges that Adelson supported prostitution at his Macau casino, then the NJDC would be within its rights to demand Republicans stop accepting his money. The Democratic Party clearly wants to demonize Adelson the way it’s done with the Kochs and Karl Rove. But by attacking Republicans for accepting money from Adelson, the NJDC is basically attacking the reputation of every philanthropic group Adelson currently supports. And that puts them on the wrong side of many pro-Israel Democrats.

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McCain’s Cheap Shot at Adelson

It is perhaps to be expected that Sen. John McCain would still be whining about the way the Supreme Court’s Citizens United 2010 decision effectively neutered the campaign finance law he co-authored with Wisconsin liberal Democrat Russ Feingold. McCain is still claiming the decision made politics more corrupt, but he is deaf, dumb and blind about the way his legislation restricted free speech, added further complications to an already byzantine system and drove campaign cash further underground. But while there is nothing remarkable about McCain beating his favorite dead horse, his latest comments cross the line between fair comment and slander.

In an interview with the PBS Newshour program, McCain didn’t just assert that Citizens United is aiding corruption but that the contributions made by Mitt Romney’s leading donor may be the product of “foreign” — and therefore by definition illegal — money. The reference to billionaire Sheldon Adelson — whose billions come in part from casinos in Macao — was a cheap shot, especially as it came directly after McCain predicted  there would be “scandals” that would come out of Citizens United. McCain knows very well there is nothing illegal or underhanded about Adelson’s money or his willingness to spend it to promote the causes and candidates he supports. The scandal here isn’t the fact that a billionaire is making money overseas and spending it at home on political speech; it is the willingness of the political class to restrict the right of Americans to have a voice in the political system.

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It is perhaps to be expected that Sen. John McCain would still be whining about the way the Supreme Court’s Citizens United 2010 decision effectively neutered the campaign finance law he co-authored with Wisconsin liberal Democrat Russ Feingold. McCain is still claiming the decision made politics more corrupt, but he is deaf, dumb and blind about the way his legislation restricted free speech, added further complications to an already byzantine system and drove campaign cash further underground. But while there is nothing remarkable about McCain beating his favorite dead horse, his latest comments cross the line between fair comment and slander.

In an interview with the PBS Newshour program, McCain didn’t just assert that Citizens United is aiding corruption but that the contributions made by Mitt Romney’s leading donor may be the product of “foreign” — and therefore by definition illegal — money. The reference to billionaire Sheldon Adelson — whose billions come in part from casinos in Macao — was a cheap shot, especially as it came directly after McCain predicted  there would be “scandals” that would come out of Citizens United. McCain knows very well there is nothing illegal or underhanded about Adelson’s money or his willingness to spend it to promote the causes and candidates he supports. The scandal here isn’t the fact that a billionaire is making money overseas and spending it at home on political speech; it is the willingness of the political class to restrict the right of Americans to have a voice in the political system.

McCain clearly believes all political donations are inherently a form of corruption, a view he has hewed to since his involvement in the Keating Five Savings and Loan Scandal almost ended his political career. Since then, he has adopted a self-righteous posture on the issue and sought to impose severe restrictions on the ability of citizens to make contributions. But far from helping to clean up politics, McCain-Feingold only made things worse. It made it harder for candidates and political parties to raise money and opened the way for other entities to be created to fill the void.

Because money cannot be taken out of politics any more than it can be removed from the banking system, the growing volume of campaign finance laws has only added layers that made the system less accountable. Moreover, the danger of scandal does not come so much from the wealthy willing to spend to advance the ideas they cherish but from politicians who sell their votes to gain popularity.

Even more to the point, bills like McCain-Feingold give undue influence to the mainstream media as it made them the only venues for political discussion that could not be limited by the government. And by making it harder to raise money, McCain-Feingold was in effect an incumbent protection program that helped create an informal system of congressional tenure.

As for Adelson, the notion that any of his money comes from laundered accounts belonging to foreign players is absurd. Adelson’s conservative and pro-Israel views are no secret, and it is not likely that anyone in China is using him to advance those causes. That makes McCain’s smear a cheap shot that ought to be incompatible with the high-minded reformist stances the Arizona senator believes he embodies.

McCain is entitled to spout off about Citizens United and he is also within his rights in expressing contempt for the gaming industry that has made Adelson a billionaire. But he is way out of line when he wrongly smears the wealthy donor as a foreign agent or an emissary of corruption. He owes Adelson an apology.

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Adelson Ponies Up for Romney

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.

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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.

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My Week in Vegas With Wounded Troops

Since 2001, there have been 48,083 American service members wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. Unfortunately, many Americans hear very little about them. When the national media broaches the issue, it’s often in terms of statistics and connected to some sort of domestic challenge or burden: the high veteran unemployment, the cost of treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or the military suicide epidemic.

At times, wounded warriors have been exploited for political agendas; they’re often used as props by the anti-war movement, which has characterized them as victims of imperialist U.S. government foreign policy. And while politicians love to tout their appreciation for veterans, they often gloss over the deeper challenges the wounded face after they return home.

There are a few reasons for the disconnect. For one, the all-volunteer military means that wide swaths of America have little interaction with service members in general, let alone wounded soldiers. And their injuries can sometimes be emotionally difficult to deal with. Wounded warriors represent both the horrors of war and the valor, and when they return home they force us to confront both. It’s impossible to see a 22-year-old confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life and hold a romanticized view of war. And it’s impossible to listen to the story of how he got there and not be left humbled by his sacrifice.

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Since 2001, there have been 48,083 American service members wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. Unfortunately, many Americans hear very little about them. When the national media broaches the issue, it’s often in terms of statistics and connected to some sort of domestic challenge or burden: the high veteran unemployment, the cost of treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or the military suicide epidemic.

At times, wounded warriors have been exploited for political agendas; they’re often used as props by the anti-war movement, which has characterized them as victims of imperialist U.S. government foreign policy. And while politicians love to tout their appreciation for veterans, they often gloss over the deeper challenges the wounded face after they return home.

There are a few reasons for the disconnect. For one, the all-volunteer military means that wide swaths of America have little interaction with service members in general, let alone wounded soldiers. And their injuries can sometimes be emotionally difficult to deal with. Wounded warriors represent both the horrors of war and the valor, and when they return home they force us to confront both. It’s impossible to see a 22-year-old confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life and hold a romanticized view of war. And it’s impossible to listen to the story of how he got there and not be left humbled by his sacrifice.

I was able to spend last week with a group of 40 wounded warriors who served in Afghanistan and Iraq at a Salute the Troops event at the Palazzo Hotel in Las Vegas. What struck me at the beginning was how young some of them looked and how candid they were about their experiences: what it was like to suffer the loss of legs or arms, or permanent control of bladder and bowels; what it felt like to inhale the fire from a suicide bomb or to step on an IED plate; and the sense of guilt some felt because they were unable to go back and continue fighting alongside their friends.

But, for the most part, they didn’t dwell on their injuries. They spent the week hanging out at poolside cabanas, at the hotel sports bar, playing poker and dancing at the nightclubs. They joked around with each other, talked about sports, and commiserated over military hospital bureaucracy.

The four-day event was organized by the Armed Forces Foundation and sponsored by Southwest Airlines, Omaha Steaks and the Palazzo Hotel (which also paid for my trip). Three other bloggers, VodkaPundit, BlackFive’s Bruce McQuain, and Kristle Helmuth, were also on the trip (and I highly recommend reading their coverage as well).

The annual event was the brainchild of AFF founder Patricia Driscoll and billionaire casino mogul and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is someone even prominent politicians have a hard time securing meetings with, but he dropped by for dinner with the wounded warriors every night of the trip, often working the room on his motorized scooter.

“There’s one thing I know,” he told the group in a speech on Friday night. “When you volunteer, you don’t lead from behind. So you guys carry a sense of patriotism that is unbounded…You’re protecting us, and that’s something we can’t thank you enough [for].”

Over this Memorial Day weekend, I will share the stories of three of the wounded warriors I interviewed last week. I hope it will provide some insight into what they experienced in combat and what they’re struggling with and looking forward to as they transition out of military hospitals and return home.

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Adelson: Newt’s “At the End of His Line”

Billionaire casino-mogul Sheldon Adelson is still defending Newt Gingrich as the best candidate in the field, but it sounds like he may be getting ready to move on now that Gingrich’s chances at the nomination have evaporated.

“I mean, it appears as if he’s at the end of his line,” Adelson said at a Jewish Federation event, according to video posted by the Jewish Journal. “Because mathematically he can’t get anywhere near the numbers, and it’s unlikely to be a brokered convention.”

But Adelson also didn’t sound impressed by either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum. He compared Romney to President Obama when he was in the Senate, saying he simply isn’t decisive enough.

“I’ve talked to Romney many, many times,” said Adelson. “Everything I’ve said to Mitt, he’s said, ‘Let me look into.’ So he’s like Obama. When Obama was in the Illinois senate, 186 times he voted present. Because he didn’t want to damage his record.”

The billionaire had even harsher words for Santorum.

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Billionaire casino-mogul Sheldon Adelson is still defending Newt Gingrich as the best candidate in the field, but it sounds like he may be getting ready to move on now that Gingrich’s chances at the nomination have evaporated.

“I mean, it appears as if he’s at the end of his line,” Adelson said at a Jewish Federation event, according to video posted by the Jewish Journal. “Because mathematically he can’t get anywhere near the numbers, and it’s unlikely to be a brokered convention.”

But Adelson also didn’t sound impressed by either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum. He compared Romney to President Obama when he was in the Senate, saying he simply isn’t decisive enough.

“I’ve talked to Romney many, many times,” said Adelson. “Everything I’ve said to Mitt, he’s said, ‘Let me look into.’ So he’s like Obama. When Obama was in the Illinois senate, 186 times he voted present. Because he didn’t want to damage his record.”

The billionaire had even harsher words for Santorum.

“This man has no history whatsoever of creating anything or taking risks. Now that being said, I know Rick. I like him. We’re friendly. But I got to tell you something, I don’t want him running my country.”

Adelson also said he’d talked to both Gingrich and Romney about potentially coming to a deal to run on the same ticket. He said Gingrich told him that would go against his strategy, and Romney didn’t give him a direct answer.

It makes you wonder whether that sort of deal was raised at the secret meeting Romney and Gingrich reportedly had on Saturday. The Washington Times reports Gingrich made no deal to end his bid, but just the fact that there was a meeting suggests that may have been on the table:

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich met secretly with GOP rival Mitt Romney on Saturday, according to a source close to the campaign, but the former House speaker says he has made no deal to end his bid for the GOP nomination.

Mr. Gingrich, responding to questions from the Washington Times, did not deny the meeting, but explicitly said he hasn’t been offered a position in a potential Romney administration in exchange for dropping out.

Nor, he said, is there a deal to have Mr. Romney’s big donors help retire Mr. Gingrich’s campaign debt of more than $1 million.

As Gingrich’s primary financial backer indicated, his campaign has no realistic path to the nomination at this point. The former speaker already announced yesterday that he’s running out of money and downsizing his staff. While a few weeks ago, he may have been able to cut a deal with Santorum or Romney to either act as a spoiler in the race or drop out, and at this point, he has basically nothing to offer either of them. The idea that Romney would promise Gingrich a position or even pay down his debt seems incredibly unlikely.

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Smear Supporters to Get Hearing at J Street

Even J Street critics were baffled last January when the group’s founder and President Jeremy Ben-Ami more or less randomly decided to defend “Israel-Firster” rhetoric against pro-Israel Americans. The term was condemned as anti-Semitic by the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and its use by Center for American Progress contributors eventually caused the White House to distance itself from the organization. Self-professed pro-J Street blogger Jeffrey Goldberg expressed himself “surprised” by Ben-Ami’s stance.

The mystery became somewhat less mysterious after Alana pointed out a potential financial incentive behind J Street’s position, connecting J Street with groups that use the term. The link helps explain why mere hours after publicly walking back Ben-Ami’s statements, J Street took to Facebook to blast Sheldon Adelson as an “Israel-Firster” and to push a piece attacking anti-Semitism watchdogs for “Likudnik Paranoia.”

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Even J Street critics were baffled last January when the group’s founder and President Jeremy Ben-Ami more or less randomly decided to defend “Israel-Firster” rhetoric against pro-Israel Americans. The term was condemned as anti-Semitic by the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and its use by Center for American Progress contributors eventually caused the White House to distance itself from the organization. Self-professed pro-J Street blogger Jeffrey Goldberg expressed himself “surprised” by Ben-Ami’s stance.

The mystery became somewhat less mysterious after Alana pointed out a potential financial incentive behind J Street’s position, connecting J Street with groups that use the term. The link helps explain why mere hours after publicly walking back Ben-Ami’s statements, J Street took to Facebook to blast Sheldon Adelson as an “Israel-Firster” and to push a piece attacking anti-Semitism watchdogs for “Likudnik Paranoia.”

Given where the organization ended up — not only smearing Jewish groups as feverish Israel Lobby mouthpieces, but actively throwing around anti-Semitic language — it’s no wonder that the upcoming 2012 J Street Conference is stacked with defenders of those kinds of conspiracy theories and that kind of rhetoric.

Sarah Posner and Sarah Wildman, who each attacked anti-Semitism concerns in print and then on a bloggheads.tv episode, are on the speakers’ list. Ditto for Eric Alterman, who declared himself “uncomfortable” with anti-Semitic language but insisted that conspiracy theories about dual loyalists are true of a “great many people.” Ditto for Ari Rabin-Havt, who considers concerns about the term to be right-wing trolling. Ditto for Geneive Abdo, whose feverish conspiracy theories are frankly weird. And so on.

All of which is by way of saying: lots of people have pointed out how risible it is for J Street to claim to speak for a silent majority of Jewish Americans, given that their conference will promote Peter Beinart’s work in the face of an impressively broad beat-down. But let’s not forget that J Street also promotes plenty of other disgraceful positions that are also also rejected by huge majorities in the American-Jewish community.

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Bill Maher’s Money and Democracy

Comedian Bill Maher made headlines yesterday by announcing he is giving $1 million to President Obama’s super PAC. The donation to Priorities USA Action was, Maher said, “the wisest investment I think I could make,” because he considers that living in a country governed by Obama rather than the Republicans is “worth a million dollars.” Anything a person like Maher does must be seen as a publicity stunt. but it will likely also be treated as proof of the absurdity of a system that allows wealthy people to use their money to promote their views. Maher’s million-dollar check will be seen as a sacrifice on the altar of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that opened up the floodgates for private groups and individuals to put their money where their mouths are.

But though his intent may be to satirize or to undermine existing law, Maher’s action is not only entirely appropriate; it is proof that the high court’s ruling was correct. If Maher believes Barack Obama should be re-elected, then neither the government nor those of us who disagree with him should have any right to stop him from spending his money in this fashion. Donations to candidates or causes, whether large or small, are a form of political speech. He is as entitled to his right to promote his side as a Republican like Sheldon Adelson or a fellow leftist such as George Soros.

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Comedian Bill Maher made headlines yesterday by announcing he is giving $1 million to President Obama’s super PAC. The donation to Priorities USA Action was, Maher said, “the wisest investment I think I could make,” because he considers that living in a country governed by Obama rather than the Republicans is “worth a million dollars.” Anything a person like Maher does must be seen as a publicity stunt. but it will likely also be treated as proof of the absurdity of a system that allows wealthy people to use their money to promote their views. Maher’s million-dollar check will be seen as a sacrifice on the altar of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that opened up the floodgates for private groups and individuals to put their money where their mouths are.

But though his intent may be to satirize or to undermine existing law, Maher’s action is not only entirely appropriate; it is proof that the high court’s ruling was correct. If Maher believes Barack Obama should be re-elected, then neither the government nor those of us who disagree with him should have any right to stop him from spending his money in this fashion. Donations to candidates or causes, whether large or small, are a form of political speech. He is as entitled to his right to promote his side as a Republican like Sheldon Adelson or a fellow leftist such as George Soros.

Hindering the right to donate funds to candidates and causes does not prevent the use of money in politics. It just causes it to be funneled into the system in different ways. Moreover, any system that makes such donations onerous merely enhances the power of those who have no such legal restrictions. This includes the news media, whose right to report about the campaign or various issues from a left or right wing slant and to shape public opinion is rightly protected by the Constitution.

Every attempt at campaign finance reform dating back to the initial surge of legislation after the Watergate scandal has only served to worsen the system. Instead of money flowing to candidates and parties, it must now be channeled to independent groups that are even less accountable. Unfortunately, stifling the free speech rights of independent groups is exactly what opponents of the Citizens United decision want to do. But so long as there is a majority on the court willing to defend the rights of citizens to individually or collectively express their views in this manner, such efforts will fail. In a country where flag burning is a constitutionally protected act of free speech, the idea that so-called “good government” types would have the right to prevent Adelson, Soros or even Bill Maher from promoting their views via expenditures is absurd.

I may not consider Bill Maher to be funny and view his political views with even more distaste than his attempts at humor. But I — and anyone else who cares about democracy and free speech — ought to be prepared to defend to the death his right to spend his money on any causes or candidates he likes.

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Adelson and Santorum Agree on Gambling

Last Thursday, Jim Geraghty speculated at National Review that Sheldon Adelson might have a business motive for his preferences in the Republican presidential race. Adelson has donated more than $10 million to keep Newt Gingrich’s campaign alive and has seemed to indicate he will support Mitt Romney if and when Gingrich throws in the towel. But Adelson doesn’t appear to be at all interested in Rick Santorum, the Republican who is currently leading in the national polls. That caused Geraghty to ponder whether Santorum’s opposition to gambling may be causing the casino mogul to want to keep Gingrich in the race so as to ensure that Santorum can’t beat Romney.

Given that Adelson’s priority is ensuring a strong pro-Israel alternative to President Obama and that Santorum is as solid a supporter of the Jewish state as Gingrich and Romney, Geraghty’s notion seemed logical. But this morning COMMENTARY received an e-mail letter-to-the-editor from Adelson’s office (in response to posts by Alana and myself on the subject of Santorum’s stand on gambling) that should debunk this thesis. It reads:

Regarding your February 16th article: “Santorum wants to ban gambling?”

I agree with Rick Santorum. I am in favor of the comment he made about destination casinos and I am, as he is, against any type of gaming on the Internet. You might also know I am not against Rick Santorum. I am in favor of Newt Gingrich.

Sheldon G. Adelson

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Last Thursday, Jim Geraghty speculated at National Review that Sheldon Adelson might have a business motive for his preferences in the Republican presidential race. Adelson has donated more than $10 million to keep Newt Gingrich’s campaign alive and has seemed to indicate he will support Mitt Romney if and when Gingrich throws in the towel. But Adelson doesn’t appear to be at all interested in Rick Santorum, the Republican who is currently leading in the national polls. That caused Geraghty to ponder whether Santorum’s opposition to gambling may be causing the casino mogul to want to keep Gingrich in the race so as to ensure that Santorum can’t beat Romney.

Given that Adelson’s priority is ensuring a strong pro-Israel alternative to President Obama and that Santorum is as solid a supporter of the Jewish state as Gingrich and Romney, Geraghty’s notion seemed logical. But this morning COMMENTARY received an e-mail letter-to-the-editor from Adelson’s office (in response to posts by Alana and myself on the subject of Santorum’s stand on gambling) that should debunk this thesis. It reads:

Regarding your February 16th article: “Santorum wants to ban gambling?”

I agree with Rick Santorum. I am in favor of the comment he made about destination casinos and I am, as he is, against any type of gaming on the Internet. You might also know I am not against Rick Santorum. I am in favor of Newt Gingrich.

Sheldon G. Adelson

This makes sense. After all, in the television interview in which Santorum state his opposition to the proliferation of casinos and Internet gambling, he made it clear he saw no problem with maintaining Las Vegas and Atlantic City as the two enclaves of legalized gaming. More legal gambling undermines Adelson’s business interests.

But I think the real mistake here is in attempting to re-interpret Adelson’s politics through the lens of his business rather than his beliefs. Adelson’s political and charitable contributions have never been primarily motivated by promoting his casino businesses but by his ardent and principled backing for the state of Israel. It was Gingrich’s decades-long stand on backing Israel that brought him together with Adelson. If Romney is Adelson’s second choice, it is almost certainly because he, like many other Republicans, believes the former Massachusetts governor has a better chance of beating Barack Obama in November.

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Santorum Wants to Ban Gambling?

National Review’s Jim Geraghty wonders whether there might be a business-related reason behind casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s reported opposition to Rick Santorum. Take a look at what the former Pennsylvania senator had to say about gambling during a recent interview with Jon Ralston:

I’m someone who takes the opinion that gaming is not something that is beneficial, particularly having that access on the Internet. Just as we’ve seen from a lot of other things that are vices on the Internet, they end to grow exponentially as a result of that. It’s one thing to come to Las Vegas and do gaming and participate in the shows and that kind of thing as entertainment, it’s another thing to sit in your home and have access to that it. I think it would be dangerous to our country to have that type of access to gaming on the Internet.

Freedom’s not absolute. What rights in the Constitution are absolute? There is no right to absolute freedom. There are limitations. You might want to say the same thing about a whole variety of other things that are on the Internet — “let everybody have it, let everybody do it.” No. There are certain things that actually do cost people a lot of money, cost them their lives, cost them their fortunes that we shouldn’t have and make available, to make it that easy to do.

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National Review’s Jim Geraghty wonders whether there might be a business-related reason behind casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s reported opposition to Rick Santorum. Take a look at what the former Pennsylvania senator had to say about gambling during a recent interview with Jon Ralston:

I’m someone who takes the opinion that gaming is not something that is beneficial, particularly having that access on the Internet. Just as we’ve seen from a lot of other things that are vices on the Internet, they end to grow exponentially as a result of that. It’s one thing to come to Las Vegas and do gaming and participate in the shows and that kind of thing as entertainment, it’s another thing to sit in your home and have access to that it. I think it would be dangerous to our country to have that type of access to gaming on the Internet.

Freedom’s not absolute. What rights in the Constitution are absolute? There is no right to absolute freedom. There are limitations. You might want to say the same thing about a whole variety of other things that are on the Internet — “let everybody have it, let everybody do it.” No. There are certain things that actually do cost people a lot of money, cost them their lives, cost them their fortunes that we shouldn’t have and make available, to make it that easy to do.

Santorum seems mainly to be talking about internet gambling, which I imagine Vegas casino moguls would prefer to see shut down anyway. But it’s easy to see how Santorum’s argument could easily lead to stricter casino regulations – and even all-out bans – if taken to its logical conclusion.

The question is, where’s the conservative outrage? If Santorum’s comments aren’t nanny state-ism in its purest form, then what is? If President Obama made the same remarks, the story would be getting the Drudge siren. Conservatives would be up in arms. Twitter would be flooded with speculations over what “vices” the president would try to clamp down on next.

If you’re a conservative and you give Santorum a pass on this, you forego any future right to complain about liberals taking away your Happy Meals and trans fats. There have to be consequences for these things.

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Adelson’s New Goal: Take Down Santorum

Considering the attacks Sheldon Adelson funded against Mitt Romney – a candidate he reportedly likes – just imagine how he treats candidates he disagrees with:

In a bit of political chess, Mr. Adelson is ready to not only directly support the former House speaker in the Republican primary, but to use his cash to push Rick Santorum from his position atop the latest national polls, according to people who have discussed the matter with Mr. Adelson.

If Mr. Gingrich could afford to continue campaigning, one of those people said, he might be able to draw off conservative and evangelical voters from Mr. Santorum, improving the chances of Mitt Romney, who Mr. Adelson believes has a better chance to win November’s general election. …

Mr. Adelson doesn’t oppose Mr. Santorum, but he doesn’t share the former Pennsylvania senator’s socially conservative positions, including his strong anti-abortion views, associates said. Mr. Santorum was one of only two Republicans who didn’t meet with Mr. Adelson in October around the time of a candidates’ debate in Las Vegas, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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Considering the attacks Sheldon Adelson funded against Mitt Romney – a candidate he reportedly likes – just imagine how he treats candidates he disagrees with:

In a bit of political chess, Mr. Adelson is ready to not only directly support the former House speaker in the Republican primary, but to use his cash to push Rick Santorum from his position atop the latest national polls, according to people who have discussed the matter with Mr. Adelson.

If Mr. Gingrich could afford to continue campaigning, one of those people said, he might be able to draw off conservative and evangelical voters from Mr. Santorum, improving the chances of Mitt Romney, who Mr. Adelson believes has a better chance to win November’s general election. …

Mr. Adelson doesn’t oppose Mr. Santorum, but he doesn’t share the former Pennsylvania senator’s socially conservative positions, including his strong anti-abortion views, associates said. Mr. Santorum was one of only two Republicans who didn’t meet with Mr. Adelson in October around the time of a candidates’ debate in Las Vegas, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Adelson reportedly hasn’t shifted allegiances to Romney, but it’s basically implied if he pursues this strategy. The last thing Romney needs at this point is for Gingrich to drop out of the race. And from Romney’s perspective, Adelson’s cash could be put to much better use by funding Gingrich ads against Santorum. After all, Romney doesn’t really need the money at this point, and Newt has more credibility on the right to pull off harsh attacks on Santorum’s social positions.

This also shows that any hopes Republicans had of capturing a greater percentage of the Jewish vote may go out the window if Santorum’s the candidate. Moderate Jews who might consider voting Republican based on Israel will probably find it hard to support a candidate with far-right views on abortion, gay marriage and contraception.

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Adelson Pulls the Plug on Gingrich

A bad week for Newt Gingrich has just gotten worse. Bloomberg News is reporting that Newt Gingrich has seen his last check from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The casino mogul and his wife donated a reported $11 million to pro-Gingrich super PACs in January when his fortunes had faded and he desperately needed help. Their infusion of cash into his campaign funded an avalanche of ads attacking Mitt Romney and helped Gingrich to a big win in the South Carolina primary. However, Gingrich’s crushing defeat in Florida and a string of caucuses since then has made another comeback for the former Speaker of the House increasingly unlikely. But if Gingrich thinks the Adelsons will pony up for another round of Romney-bashing, he is mistaken.

As the New York Times reported last weekend, Adelson may like Gingrich but his political objective this year is defeating Barack Obama. The Romney campaign conducted a careful attempt at outreach with the Adelsons and it has apparently borne fruit. In the piece, Adelson made it clear that he would actively support Romney once Gingrich quit. Yet while Gingrich, whose run seems fueled as much by his hatred for Romney as it is by his considerable personal ambition, is unlikely to drop out anytime soon, Adelson has gone a bit farther now by signaling that he will not be giving his friend any more money in order to pursue this vendetta.

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A bad week for Newt Gingrich has just gotten worse. Bloomberg News is reporting that Newt Gingrich has seen his last check from Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The casino mogul and his wife donated a reported $11 million to pro-Gingrich super PACs in January when his fortunes had faded and he desperately needed help. Their infusion of cash into his campaign funded an avalanche of ads attacking Mitt Romney and helped Gingrich to a big win in the South Carolina primary. However, Gingrich’s crushing defeat in Florida and a string of caucuses since then has made another comeback for the former Speaker of the House increasingly unlikely. But if Gingrich thinks the Adelsons will pony up for another round of Romney-bashing, he is mistaken.

As the New York Times reported last weekend, Adelson may like Gingrich but his political objective this year is defeating Barack Obama. The Romney campaign conducted a careful attempt at outreach with the Adelsons and it has apparently borne fruit. In the piece, Adelson made it clear that he would actively support Romney once Gingrich quit. Yet while Gingrich, whose run seems fueled as much by his hatred for Romney as it is by his considerable personal ambition, is unlikely to drop out anytime soon, Adelson has gone a bit farther now by signaling that he will not be giving his friend any more money in order to pursue this vendetta.

The GOP race has changed so many times in the last few months that it is hard to argue that it will not flip again, but right now it appears that Rick Santorum has passed Gingrich in the battle to be the leading “not Romney” in the race. Gingrich desperately needs a boost from somewhere but Adelson, who is an ardent supporter of Israel and fears the consequences of a second term for Obama, will not fund a campaign that at this point may be more about an attempt to cripple the man who is still the most likely to be the Republican nominee than anything else.

Since Gingrich spent most of 2011 running without much money in the bank, it can be argued that this setback won’t be enough to force him out of the race. But Gingrich is a man who struggled a long time to achieve the wealth that his consulting/lobbying business gave him in the last decade. With his campaign debts mounting every day, he has to be worried about being forced to spend years trying to repay this money. This means that unless Gingrich finds a new sugar daddy, his days as a viable or active candidate may be numbered.

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Paulbots Crash Adelson Caucus

Last night’s late-evening caucus for Jewish voters who couldn’t participate in the morning caucus due to Shabbat conflicts cranked up the typical anti-Jewish paranoia of the Ron Paul community to a new level. Not only were the conspiracy theorists out in full force on the Ron Paul fan-sites (but I repeat myself), they also showed up en masse at the special caucus, which was hosted at a school run by Gingrich-backer Sheldon Adelson:

Next came about 25 passionate speakers for Paul. In short order, the scene in the auditorium began to feel like a revival meeting for anti-government paranoiacs.

The first one accused the government of “genocide.” Another complained that Paul was the victim of media bias, as evidenced by the fact that in the GOP debates, “When they go on Ron Paul the lighting’s dimmer.” Another accused the government of “using our own men as guinea pigs.”

As Gingrich, across town, was vowing bitterly to continue his campaign, a Paul supporter was testifying: “Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney run the two-legged race together at Bohemian Grove! There’s not a bit of difference between those two puppets! I got one word to describe my support for Ron Paul, and that is: End the Fed!”

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Last night’s late-evening caucus for Jewish voters who couldn’t participate in the morning caucus due to Shabbat conflicts cranked up the typical anti-Jewish paranoia of the Ron Paul community to a new level. Not only were the conspiracy theorists out in full force on the Ron Paul fan-sites (but I repeat myself), they also showed up en masse at the special caucus, which was hosted at a school run by Gingrich-backer Sheldon Adelson:

Next came about 25 passionate speakers for Paul. In short order, the scene in the auditorium began to feel like a revival meeting for anti-government paranoiacs.

The first one accused the government of “genocide.” Another complained that Paul was the victim of media bias, as evidenced by the fact that in the GOP debates, “When they go on Ron Paul the lighting’s dimmer.” Another accused the government of “using our own men as guinea pigs.”

As Gingrich, across town, was vowing bitterly to continue his campaign, a Paul supporter was testifying: “Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney run the two-legged race together at Bohemian Grove! There’s not a bit of difference between those two puppets! I got one word to describe my support for Ron Paul, and that is: End the Fed!”

And what about all those predictions that Adelson was going to “steal” the caucus for Gingrich (and the alternative theories that the late-evening caucus was a “distraction” so that the establishment could pocket Nevada for Romney)? Shockingly enough, they never came to pass. The Adelson school caucus went overwhelmingly to Ron Paul, by 58 percent. Meanwhile, Romney won the state by a landslide, and his win was projected before the nighttime caucus even began.

As Jonathan wrote last week, the late-evening caucus to allow Orthodox Jews to vote was the right thing to do. But critics were also right to question the ethics and constitutionality of requiring participants to fill out forms saying they missed the earlier voting for religious reasons.

However, Ron Paul’s robocall to his supporters asking them to crash the caucus – and the vile anti-Jewish paranoia about it on the pro-Paul websites – shows exactly why the Republican Party should keep Paul and his fans at arms-length. Should Paul supporters have the right to attend the late-evening caucus, just like the Orthodox Jewish voters it was designed to accommodate? Sure. But they should have done so because they honestly had a voting conflict, not to disrupt the event, and definitely not based on psychotic Jewish conspiracy theories.

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Adelson May be Ready to Bail on Gingrich

There are only two reasons why Newt Gingrich has been able to stay in the Republican presidential race, and they are both named Adelson. Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam donated $10 million to a pro-Gingrich super PAC just at the moment when it appeared when the former speaker was dead in the water last month. But according to the New York Times, Gingrich’s number one fans already have a “plan B” ready for the day he drops out of the race. The Times says Adelson has relayed to Romney assurances that “he will provide even more generous support to his candidacy if he becomes the Republican nominee.” While sources say Adelson will support Gingrich as long as he wants to stay in the race, he appears to be keenly aware that other pro-Israel Republicans have not rallied to Gingrich’s banner, and he knows Romney is the likely nominee.

This can’t be very reassuring for Gingrich as he prepares to try and survive a month when he is unlikely to win any caucuses or primaries. But it does show that Adelson’s priority is not so much helping his friend as it is beating President Obama this fall.

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There are only two reasons why Newt Gingrich has been able to stay in the Republican presidential race, and they are both named Adelson. Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam donated $10 million to a pro-Gingrich super PAC just at the moment when it appeared when the former speaker was dead in the water last month. But according to the New York Times, Gingrich’s number one fans already have a “plan B” ready for the day he drops out of the race. The Times says Adelson has relayed to Romney assurances that “he will provide even more generous support to his candidacy if he becomes the Republican nominee.” While sources say Adelson will support Gingrich as long as he wants to stay in the race, he appears to be keenly aware that other pro-Israel Republicans have not rallied to Gingrich’s banner, and he knows Romney is the likely nominee.

This can’t be very reassuring for Gingrich as he prepares to try and survive a month when he is unlikely to win any caucuses or primaries. But it does show that Adelson’s priority is not so much helping his friend as it is beating President Obama this fall.

The Times described a very careful campaign of outreach from the Romney campaign to Adelson including a phone call from the candidate two weeks ago. There has been no criticism of Adelson from Romney or his Jewish supporters even though many were upset at his financing of harsh attacks on the former Massachusetts governor that seemed to use a left-wing frame of reference.

Given that Adelson’s number one priority is ensuring U.S. support for the State of Israel, he can’t have much interest in a Gingrich sore loser scenario campaign in the coming weeks that would only help President Obama’s chances of re-election. So while Gingrich has been talking a brave game the last week vowing to take the fight against Romney all the way to the Republican convention, that’s not something that may interest his number one backer.

Though today’s Nevada landslide for Romney may not impress pundits who assumed all along he would win there, Adelson may draw some harsh conclusions about his candidate’s wipeout loss there tonight. While Adelson may not publicly ditch Gingrich, the former speaker may have seen his last $5 million check from the wealthy couple. If so, Gingrich’s ability to stay in the race may be severely compromised.

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Adelsonphobia Strikes in Nevada Caucus

How radioactive is Sheldon Adelson these days? It’s gotten to the point where the casino mogul and Gingrich campaign mega-contributor is vulnerable to criticism in some quarters even when he does something non-controversial. That’s the only way to look at the issue of whether he had any involvement in the creation of a special post-Sabbath Republican caucus meeting in Nevada’s Clark County.

Accommodating Jews who observe the Sabbath and might otherwise be deprived of participation in a caucus scheduled on a Saturday seems like just the right thing to do, especially in a city like Las Vegas with a not inconsiderable Jewish population. But after the publicity that has attached to his decision to pump $10 million into the Gingrich campaign, Adelson is so sensitive about the notion he is manipulating the Republican Party that his spokesman denied today he had any involvement in the decision to set up a Saturday night caucus that will take place at a Jewish religious school he and his wife helped fund. But according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, he does deserve some credit for the effort to help Orthodox Jews vote.

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How radioactive is Sheldon Adelson these days? It’s gotten to the point where the casino mogul and Gingrich campaign mega-contributor is vulnerable to criticism in some quarters even when he does something non-controversial. That’s the only way to look at the issue of whether he had any involvement in the creation of a special post-Sabbath Republican caucus meeting in Nevada’s Clark County.

Accommodating Jews who observe the Sabbath and might otherwise be deprived of participation in a caucus scheduled on a Saturday seems like just the right thing to do, especially in a city like Las Vegas with a not inconsiderable Jewish population. But after the publicity that has attached to his decision to pump $10 million into the Gingrich campaign, Adelson is so sensitive about the notion he is manipulating the Republican Party that his spokesman denied today he had any involvement in the decision to set up a Saturday night caucus that will take place at a Jewish religious school he and his wife helped fund. But according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, he does deserve some credit for the effort to help Orthodox Jews vote.

The paper reports Adelson was approached by a member of the Orthodox community in Las Vegas (the city where his hotel/casino business is headquartered), and asked him to intervene with the state GOP. Adelson asked the GOP state chair to allow absentee ballots but was turned down because caucuses are predicated on voters showing up in person at these events that can start meeting at 9 a.m. that day. Apparently, the idea for a special post-Sabbath caucus site was an initiative of the Clark County GOP.

But no matter whose idea it was, providing a reasonable accommodation for observant Jews (among whose number Adelson and his wife apparently don’t number themselves) was entirely correct. It will be interesting to see if the estimated 500 Jews and Seventh Day Adventists who show up at the special 7 p.m. caucus at the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Educational Campus will back their patron’s favorite candidate, Newt Gingrich. But whether they do or not, no one should criticize the GOP or Adelson for letting them have their say.

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