This article sums up pretty well what American electoral politics is all about. One plutocrat offers to buy the election for the neocons and says he’s only countering the efforts of another plutocrat (Soros) to buy the election for the progressives. This is simply an intramural battle between the two dominant factions of the ruling class.
This story is part of a larger profileappearing in the March 12th, 2012 issue of FORBES magazine. The complete cover story will appear online beginning Wednesday, February 22nd.
Sheldon Adelson plays as stubbornly in politics as he does in business. So the criticisms that he’s trying to personally buy the presidential election for Newt Gingrich are met with a roll of the eyes. “Those people are either jealous or professional critics,” Adelson tells me during his first interview since he andhis wife began funneling $11 million, with another $10 million injection widely expected, into the former speaker’s super PAC, Winning Our Future. “They like to trash other people. It’s unfair that I’ve been treated unfair—but it doesn’t stop me. I might give $10 million or $100 million to Gingrich.”
Adelson, the 78-year-old CEO of casino giant Las Vegas Sands, certainly can afford to: With a net worth of roughly $25 billion, that $11 million, which jolted Gingrich’s flatlining presidential bid back to life, equates to 0.044% of his fortune. For someone with a $1 million net worth, the equivalent would be $440, or a two-night stay at Adelson’s Venetian casino. Adelson could personally fund an entire presidential campaign—say, $1 billion or so—and not even notice.
Is that fair? “I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections,” he shrugs. “But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it. Because I know that guys like Soros have been doing it for years, if not decades. And they stay below the radar by creating a network of corporations to funnel their money. I have my own philosophy and I’m not ashamed of it. I gave the money because there is no other legal way to do it. I don’t want to go through ten different corporations to hide my name. I’m proud of what I do and I’m not looking to escape recognition.”
He’s also proud of his hawkish defense of Israel—his wife is Israeli and his young sons carry Israeli passports. Yet those who have categorized his patronage of Gingrich and other Republicans as a one-issue investment have it wrong. The man whose net worth, by Forbes’ calculations, has jumped more ($21.6 billion) during the Obama administration than any other American — Mark Zuckerberg included — wants to take the president out for economic reasons.“What scares me is the continuation of the socialist-style economywe’ve been experiencing for almost four years. That scares me because the redistribution of wealth is the path to more socialism, and to more of the government controlling people’s lives. What scares me is the lack of accountability that people would prefer to experience, just let the government take care of everything and I’ll go fish or I won’t work, etc.”
“U.S. domestic politics is very important to me because I see that the things that made this country great are now being relegated into duplicating that which is making other countries less great. … I’m afraid of the trend where more and more people have the tendency to want to be given instead of wanting to give. People are less willing to share. There are fewer philanthropists being grown and there are greater expectations of the government. I believe that people will come to their senses and not extend the current Administration’s quest to socialize this country. It won’t be a socialist democracy because it won’t be a democracy.”
So with Gingrich looking increasingly unviable, does that mean he’ll throw his largess behind another candidate? “If Ron Paul is chosen I certainly wouldn’tdo that.” What about front-runner Mitt Romney? “I don’t want to say. Newspapers said I had two meetings with Romney and Gingrich [on Feb. 3], which is untrue. Most of what is being said about me in this current brouhaha is just not true. I know Romney; I like him. I know Santorum; I like him. … The likelihood is that I’m going to be supportive of whoever the candidate is. I just haven’t decided that yet and will wait to see what happens.”
Whomever he supports, Adelson claims he won’t pay for mudslinging. “I don’t believe in negative campaigning. I believe in saying that my opponents are very good people and I’m confident a lot of them would do a good job, but I would do a better job, and here’s why,” says Adelson. “Money is fungible, but you can’t take my money out of the total money you have and use it for negative campaigning.” Of course, that stance ignores the fact that an avalanche of negative ads against Romney won Gingrich South Carolina, andthat Adelson’s $5 million injection was the dominant source of his funding. “That’s what everybody says, but that doesn’t mean it’s true,” the billionaire says, waving his hands dismissively. “Most of what’s been written about me in this is untrue.”