Fix Pick: Get To Know Sheldon Adelson
For anyone who has been to Las Vegas in the last few years, it's hard to miss Sheldon Adelson's imprint on the Strip -- his Venetian and Palazzo casinos are among the most luxurious in Sin City. But, for those of who who toil day in and day out in the nation's capital, Adelson has been a distance presence.
Adelson, the third richest man in America according to Forbes magazine, has in recent years turned his attention and, more importantly, his wallet to American politics. Adelson has donated more than $229,000 to various state and national Republican committees and candidates over the last three elections but his real influence is felt in the contributions he has -- and continues to make -- to 527s and 501(c)(4)s that engaged in public education/political efforts
Adelson is one of the prime movers and major backers of Freedom's Watch, the independent, conservative-aligned group expected to play a major role in House and Senate races this year. He has reportedly donated $30 million to fund the groups activities, but because Freedom's Watch is a 501(c)(4), it is not required to make public its donors.
Among the tidbits we learn about Adelson:
* His massive wealth is a relatively recent phenomenon due in large part to his investment in casinos on the Chinese island of Macau. Adelson invested hundreds of millions; his return on the investment was in billions.
* Adelson is a major figure in Israeli politics, having started a free daily newspaper known as Israel Hayom that is widely seen as a vehicle to re-install conservative Benjamin Netanyahu as the country's prime minister.
* The gaming tycoon sees his role in the coming fall election as "the cavalry coming over the hill, bugles blaring," according to a rare interview (Adelson idolizes MGM Grand majority shareholder Kirk Kerkorian in press relations; "Kirk never talks to the press," he says) with the Wall Street Journal.
* Adelson and Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) are engaged in a long-running feud. When Adelson fired Berkley, who in the late 1990s was vice president of government and legal affairs of Sands, he penned a letter to the Las Vegas Review Journal accusing Berkley of attacking him "in order to draw attention away from her own ethical lapses." Berkley, who ran for and won a seat in Congress in 1998, responded with a letter of her own alleging that "Mr. Adelson seeks to dominate politics and public policy through the raw power of money." Only in Vegas.
What's clear from both pieces about Adelson is that Republicans in Congress view him as a potential savior (he is referred to in both profiles as the conservatives answer to liberal philanthropist Georges Soros). Adelson is not the silver bullet answer many Republicans are looking for, but it would be a mistake by Democrats to underestimate the power that one extremely wealthy man with an agenda to push can have on congressional races.
The key in determining Adelson's impact? How much money does he ultimately give to Freedom's Watch, and other-like minded groups, and does the money have strings attached or can the operatives at the organizations spend it as they see fit?
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