Commentary Magazine


Topic: Sheldon Adelson

Adelson on What Adelson Wants

Several months ago, the New York Times editorial column ran a piece headlined “What Sheldon Adelson Wants” (which is sort of like Russia Today running a story on “What the National Endowment for Democracy Wants”). The Times’s answers ranged from money, to ending a Justice Department investigation, to Adelson’s supposed opposition to a two-state solution.

“He is even further to the right than the main pro-Israeli lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,” the editorial board wrote breathlessly. Today, Adelson finally weighed in with a column for the JNS wire service.

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Several months ago, the New York Times editorial column ran a piece headlined “What Sheldon Adelson Wants” (which is sort of like Russia Today running a story on “What the National Endowment for Democracy Wants”). The Times’s answers ranged from money, to ending a Justice Department investigation, to Adelson’s supposed opposition to a two-state solution.

“He is even further to the right than the main pro-Israeli lobbying group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee,” the editorial board wrote breathlessly. Today, Adelson finally weighed in with a column for the JNS wire service.

He writes that his support for Romney is based on his opinion that Romney would be more supportive of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Adelson’s concerns seem to hew closely to the concerns voiced by Democratic critics of Obama’s Israel record. He cites Obama’s rejection of a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu last month, his support for “daylight,” and his foot-dragging on sanctions, among many other issues.

Adelson also pushed back against the duel-loyalty charges that have colored some of the news coverage of him:

To be sure, no one should argue that Jews must support Romney just because he is more reliable on Israel. But neither should they dismiss him because they don’t agree with his every position. When the Jewish homeland is at stake, we must not let ourselves be fooled by Obama’s oration skills. Nor can we afford to ignore his troubling track record on Israel.

Those who support Obama are asking the rest of us to trust a president who has yet to recognize Israel’s ancient capital, a promise he made in the last election.

This wasn’t a fire-breathing, right-wing critique of Obama’s Israel policy. It was a fairly moderate one, which may surprise many of Adelson’s critics.

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What Adelson Wants

There’s been plenty of speculation about what top GOP donor Sheldon Adelson wants out of his massive campaign contributions to Mitt Romney. While the left sees some sinister financial motivation, that idea has always seemed absurd. Is it possible that Adelson’s business would see some benefit under a Romney administration? Maybe, in some minor ways. But he’s the seventh richest man in America, and he’s 79 years old — how much higher can he really go at this point?

Then there’s the related idea, pushed by the New York Times editorial board, that Adelson is trying to get Romney elected so that he can squash the Obama Justice Department’s investigation into his Macau casino operation. But if Adelson was truly just interested in having that investigation disappear, wouldn’t he be better off giving that $100 million to the Obama campaign instead? Why take the risk on Romney, when he could curry favor with the administration that actually has control over the investigation?

No, Adelson’s motivations are far simpler. He is a conservative ideologue, and he’s working to get Romney elected because he supports his politics. He acknowledged as much in today’s interview with Politico’s Mike Allen:

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There’s been plenty of speculation about what top GOP donor Sheldon Adelson wants out of his massive campaign contributions to Mitt Romney. While the left sees some sinister financial motivation, that idea has always seemed absurd. Is it possible that Adelson’s business would see some benefit under a Romney administration? Maybe, in some minor ways. But he’s the seventh richest man in America, and he’s 79 years old — how much higher can he really go at this point?

Then there’s the related idea, pushed by the New York Times editorial board, that Adelson is trying to get Romney elected so that he can squash the Obama Justice Department’s investigation into his Macau casino operation. But if Adelson was truly just interested in having that investigation disappear, wouldn’t he be better off giving that $100 million to the Obama campaign instead? Why take the risk on Romney, when he could curry favor with the administration that actually has control over the investigation?

No, Adelson’s motivations are far simpler. He is a conservative ideologue, and he’s working to get Romney elected because he supports his politics. He acknowledged as much in today’s interview with Politico’s Mike Allen:

Adelson said he recently told Romney: “I want to tell you something: I’m not looking for an ambassadorship. I’m not looking for anything, except if I’m fortunate enough to be invited to another [White House] Hanukkah party, I want two potato pancakes, because last time I was there, they ran out of them.” He explained that he went “to all the Hanukkah parties for the eight years of Bush … but the last time I was there, they ran out of … latkes.” …

Adelson’s political network grew in part through the trips that he and his wife took to Israel with lawmakers through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “I’ve accompanied 205 congressmen and senators to Israel,” he recalled. “So, I spend a week with each one of ’em. So, you must know that I have a lot of friends. And why do I have a good friendship with them? Because I never ask ’em for anything — never. And everybody says to me, ‘You’re the only guy that does something for us that never asks for anything.’”

It’s notable that the left can’t seem to grasp the concept that Adelson — and the Koch brothers, for that matter — do what they do because they believe in it. While conservatives are perfectly willing to acknowledge that George Soros is ideologically-driven, many on the left are perplexed by the idea that Republican donors aren’t all motivated by personal financial interests. Because that would mean that conservatives actually believe their policies are beneficial for society, not just their own pockets — an idea that many liberals, including the Times editorial board, just aren’t willing to accept.

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The Campaign to Demonize Adelson

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.

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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.”

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Whose Anti-Semitic Dog Whistling Now?

Democrats have spent the last few days happily beginning their effort to demonize Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. But yesterday, Ryan’s appearance at a Las Vegas gathering of GOP donors gave the left a chance to tie him to the man they really hate: billionaire philanthropist and political donor Sheldon Adelson. Adelson’s well publicized donations to first Newt Gingrich and now Mitt Romney have enraged liberals who think there’s something shady about a billionaire donating money to promote political causes as long as his name isn’t Soros and the ideas he supports aren’t liberal.

That rather unexceptional meeting between a candidate and his party’s donors was detailed in an article in the New York Times that rightly pointed out that it was likely that Adelson and other leading GOP givers probably wanted a chance to ask some questions about Ryan’s views on foreign policy and his stands on Israel. There’s little doubt that Adelson was probably satisfied with what he heard since although Ryan’s main focus is the economy and the budget, he’s also a strong supporter of the Jewish state. But the chance to link the left’s new favorite Republican demon to their old standby Adelson was irresistible. And as Ben Shapiro reported on Breitbart.com, Democrats were quick to make an issue of the meeting. The Obama campaign’s Julianna Smoot sent out an email blast saying Ryan was “making a pilgrimage” to the country’s sin capital to “kiss the ring” of Adelson. While both Ryan and Adelson are fair game for political criticism, the sort of imagery used in the email is a not too sublet attempt to use religious imagery that would depict the very Catholic Ryan as paying obeisance to a man who is a Jewish piñata for leftist attacks on the pro-Israel community. This is a classic anti-Semitic dog whistle signaling voters that Ryan is in the thrall of the “Israel Lobby.”

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Democrats have spent the last few days happily beginning their effort to demonize Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. But yesterday, Ryan’s appearance at a Las Vegas gathering of GOP donors gave the left a chance to tie him to the man they really hate: billionaire philanthropist and political donor Sheldon Adelson. Adelson’s well publicized donations to first Newt Gingrich and now Mitt Romney have enraged liberals who think there’s something shady about a billionaire donating money to promote political causes as long as his name isn’t Soros and the ideas he supports aren’t liberal.

That rather unexceptional meeting between a candidate and his party’s donors was detailed in an article in the New York Times that rightly pointed out that it was likely that Adelson and other leading GOP givers probably wanted a chance to ask some questions about Ryan’s views on foreign policy and his stands on Israel. There’s little doubt that Adelson was probably satisfied with what he heard since although Ryan’s main focus is the economy and the budget, he’s also a strong supporter of the Jewish state. But the chance to link the left’s new favorite Republican demon to their old standby Adelson was irresistible. And as Ben Shapiro reported on Breitbart.com, Democrats were quick to make an issue of the meeting. The Obama campaign’s Julianna Smoot sent out an email blast saying Ryan was “making a pilgrimage” to the country’s sin capital to “kiss the ring” of Adelson. While both Ryan and Adelson are fair game for political criticism, the sort of imagery used in the email is a not too sublet attempt to use religious imagery that would depict the very Catholic Ryan as paying obeisance to a man who is a Jewish piñata for leftist attacks on the pro-Israel community. This is a classic anti-Semitic dog whistle signaling voters that Ryan is in the thrall of the “Israel Lobby.”

Ironically, most of the accusations about such nasty tactics have been directed at the GOP. Earlier this year, Gal Beckerman at the Forward made the eccentric argument that Newt Gingrich’s attempts to tie President Obama to the legacy of leftist ideologue Saul Alinsky was, “an anti-Semitic dog whistle” intended to besmirch the Democrat as somehow the tool of a Jew with, “an obviously Jewish, foreign sounding name.” Given the fact that Gingrich is widely acknowledged, even by those who disagree with his politics, to be philo-Semitic and a staunch backer of Israel, this was absurd, especially since the evangelical base of the Republican Party today is equally friendly to Jews and Israel.

But it’s not clear that liberals who are rightly worried about anything that seems vaguely anti-Semitic will be as concerned about such things as long as the whistles are sent in the direction of Gingrich’s buddy Sheldon Adelson or Ryan.

Adelson’s gambling empire makes him an easy target for all sorts of criticism, some of it perhaps legitimate though much of the focus on his dealings in China is, as I wrote yesterday, more the function of his political prominence than about his business practices. But those who worry about the intent of those who would link President Obama to someone with “an obviously Jewish, foreign sounding name,” need to be equally vigilant about the way Democrats invoke the specter of Adelson.

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No Surprise: Adelson in the Cross Hairs

Those with wealth have to know media and government scrutiny comes with their money. And if such persons choose to involve themselves in politics, then that scrutiny is bound to be even greater. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire supporter of Jewish philanthropies and Republican political candidates, probably understood this long before he became the subject of so much attention this year. But the focus on Adelson today makes it more clear than ever that the controversial campaign donor’s willingness to put himself in the spotlight means his business dealings are going to be gone over with a fine tooth comb by both the media and federal authorities as they search for something with which to hang him.

Adelson is the subject of a lengthy investigative piece that appears on the front page of today’s New York Times. According to the story, a former “front man” in China for the casino mogul’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation is being investigated about funds that may have been used to bribe foreign officials in connection with the company’s efforts to expand their business there. If true, that would violate U.S. laws that forbid such shenanigans. It’s a messy and complicated tale that has drawn the attention of Chinese authorities, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as the Times and the Wall Street Journal. But it is far from clear that Adelson has violated any law or done anything that any other big business–which chooses to operate in a country where corruption is rife and the rule of law is a hazy concept–hasn’t done. It may well be that anyone whose prosperity is derived from gambling is going to be subjected to such investigations. But the idea that he has mixed “politics and profits” as the Times put it, seems to imply there is something not kosher about him even if no wrongdoing can be proved. That leaves cynical observers wondering whether the outrage about Adelson’s dealings would be quite so acute if he were not a leading backer of conservative and Israeli causes.

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Those with wealth have to know media and government scrutiny comes with their money. And if such persons choose to involve themselves in politics, then that scrutiny is bound to be even greater. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire supporter of Jewish philanthropies and Republican political candidates, probably understood this long before he became the subject of so much attention this year. But the focus on Adelson today makes it more clear than ever that the controversial campaign donor’s willingness to put himself in the spotlight means his business dealings are going to be gone over with a fine tooth comb by both the media and federal authorities as they search for something with which to hang him.

Adelson is the subject of a lengthy investigative piece that appears on the front page of today’s New York Times. According to the story, a former “front man” in China for the casino mogul’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation is being investigated about funds that may have been used to bribe foreign officials in connection with the company’s efforts to expand their business there. If true, that would violate U.S. laws that forbid such shenanigans. It’s a messy and complicated tale that has drawn the attention of Chinese authorities, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as the Times and the Wall Street Journal. But it is far from clear that Adelson has violated any law or done anything that any other big business–which chooses to operate in a country where corruption is rife and the rule of law is a hazy concept–hasn’t done. It may well be that anyone whose prosperity is derived from gambling is going to be subjected to such investigations. But the idea that he has mixed “politics and profits” as the Times put it, seems to imply there is something not kosher about him even if no wrongdoing can be proved. That leaves cynical observers wondering whether the outrage about Adelson’s dealings would be quite so acute if he were not a leading backer of conservative and Israeli causes.

The assumption underlying these investigations is that Adelson’s successful efforts to open gambling casinos in Macao as well as his unsuccessful attempt to do business in mainline China itself had to be crooked or at least the result of some sort of bribery. Given the level of corruption in China, a country that combines authoritarian communist politics with wild and woolly capitalism, it’s difficult to assert that any business dealings there, especially concerning gambling, were pristine. But a close reading of both the Times investigation as well as the one conducted by the Journal, shows the case is more about such assumptions than any actual proof of law-breaking by Adelson.

The most damning piece of evidence about Adelson in the Times feature isn’t new. It’s the oft-told story of how Adelson used his access to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to convince him to shelve a congressional resolution opposing the holding of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing in order to please his Chinese interlocutors. That wasn’t to the credit of either Adelson or DeLay, but it wasn’t illegal. Given the fact that virtually the entire American political establishment — including those with no ties to the casino owner — made a conscious decision a decade or more ago to treat the issue of Chinese human rights violations as a minor obstacle to better relations with Beijing that was best ignored, it’s difficult to get too worked up about Adelson’s minor role in this shift.

Nor is it easy to manufacture outrage about corruption in Macao or China. The practice of hiring local fixers called guanxi to smooth the path of foreign businessman there is well-known. The line between the apparently common practice of paying such people sums of money to gain government permission to operate in the country and bribery may be so thin as to be almost non-existent.

Nevertheless, Adelson’s company is going to be given a thorough going over by U.S. authorities. Sands is cooperating with the government, and if they are penalized or prosecuted, the legal process will be long and as complicated as the investigation. We can only hope justice will be done one way or another.

But all one has to do is to read many of the hundreds of comments posted by readers in response to the Times article to understand that any public anger about Adelson has more to do with his public identity as an unashamed backer of Israel and Jewish causes and his support for Republican candidates. The anti-Semitic nature of these comments is repulsive. No matter what you think of gambling or even Adelson’s politics, the prime motivation for those who claim to support further investigation of Sands’ activities in China seems to be to discredit anyone who has the chutzpah to use his wealth to bolster Israel or conservative politics. The bottom line here is that while we cannot know the ultimate outcome of this investigation, the one thing Adelson is definitely guilty of is using his money to promote ideas the left despises.

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Jewish Dems Had No Religious Duty to Smear Adelson

The National Jewish Democratic Council may have bit off more than it could chew with its allegations about Republican donor Sheldon Adelson. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has apologized for making similar charges that the casino mogul profited from prostitution in his Macau property in China. But the NJDC has yet to back off on its attack, and the result is that Adelson has filed a $60 million libel lawsuit against the group.

Optimistic Jewish Democrats may hope the group will be able to raise some money from liberals who hate the billionaire who has contributed record amounts to Republican candidates as well as many Jewish philanthropic causes. But the problem with the NJDC posing as a martyr being harassed by the deep-pocketed conservative is that their behavior has been indefensible. Disagree with Adelson’s stands on the issues and his taste in candidates if you like, but calling someone a pimp without a shred of proof is not the stuff of First Amendment poster children. Proving libel is difficult, but on the face of it, the NJDC is going to be hard-pressed to prove its mudslinging wasn’t knowingly false as well as malicious.

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The National Jewish Democratic Council may have bit off more than it could chew with its allegations about Republican donor Sheldon Adelson. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has apologized for making similar charges that the casino mogul profited from prostitution in his Macau property in China. But the NJDC has yet to back off on its attack, and the result is that Adelson has filed a $60 million libel lawsuit against the group.

Optimistic Jewish Democrats may hope the group will be able to raise some money from liberals who hate the billionaire who has contributed record amounts to Republican candidates as well as many Jewish philanthropic causes. But the problem with the NJDC posing as a martyr being harassed by the deep-pocketed conservative is that their behavior has been indefensible. Disagree with Adelson’s stands on the issues and his taste in candidates if you like, but calling someone a pimp without a shred of proof is not the stuff of First Amendment poster children. Proving libel is difficult, but on the face of it, the NJDC is going to be hard-pressed to prove its mudslinging wasn’t knowingly false as well as malicious.

The NJDC put a brave face on the mess they talked themselves into with the following statement:

We will not be bullied into submission, and we will not be silenced by power. This is not Putin’s Russia, and in America, political speech regarding one of the most well-known public figures in our country is a fundamental right. One would think the person making greatest use of the Citizens United ruling would understand this. To be sure, referencing mainstream press accounts examining the conduct of a public figure and his business ventures—as we did—is wholly appropriate. Indeed, it is both an American and a Jewish obligation to ask hard questions of powerful individuals like Mr. Adelson, just as it is incumbent upon us to praise his wonderful philanthropic endeavors.

We know that we were well within our rights, and we will defend ourselves against this SLAPP suit as far and as long as necessary. We simply will not be bullied, and we will not be silenced.

They are right that political speech is protected, a point that the group — like other opponents of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling — often forgets. But there is a not so fine line between criticizing a public figure and spreading allegations that he is involved in prostitution. There was plenty of room for them to take shots at Adelson without using a palpably false smear. Even billionaires have a right to protect themselves against that sort of libel, and it will now be up to the NJDC to wise up and make an apology or face some serious economic consequences.

Even more to the point, the NJDC shouldn’t be dragging Judaism into this sordid fight they’ve started. Far from it being a specifically Jewish obligation to raise such issues, there is actually a specific religious prohibition against this sort of libel. Indeed, if there is anything that defines the concept of lashon hara or “evil tongue” — the provision in Jewish religious law against defamatory speech — it is calling a political opponent a pimp. For them to claim there was any such duty to smear him in this manner makes a mockery of Judaism.

Given the egregious nature of the NJDC’s offense, Adelson is well within his rights in pursuing a libel suit. Contrary to the NJDC’s whiny defense, this is not a SLAPP suit intended to silence legitimate or even outlandish political speech. Associating someone with prostitution is simply beyond the pale, even in the nasty world of politics.

That’s a lesson the group is about to learn to its sorrow. Though they may sound tough now, there’s little doubt they will soon be on their knees either begging Adelson to accept an apology or asking a court to let them off only because they didn’t know how false their wild accusations actually were.

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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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