Bromance Fills Newt Gingrich’s Campaign War Chest
Philadelphia does not hold the monopoly on pay-to-play. Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is making even former governor and mayor Ed Rendell’s biggest donors look like pikers. In the last few weeks, Adelson and his wife, Miriam, have given a combined $10 million to a political action committee that is supporting Newt Gingrich.
The price of poker has clearly gone up.
Of course, Adelson has made it clear that he doesn’t want anything in return for his outsized donations. They never do. Adelson says he is just trying to help his old friend Newt move into the White House. Hey, what are friends for?
“My motivation for helping Newt is simple and should not be mistaken for anything other than the fact that my wife Miriam and I hold our friendship with him very dear and are doing what we can as private citizens to support his candidacy,” Adelson said in a statement to the Washington Post.
If you believe that, Adelson has a slot machine waiting for you in his casino. In fairness, the Adelson-Gingrich friendship goes back years. They have a shared belief in the strong support of Israel and a strong dislike of unions. As such, they have been helping each other out for some time.
In 1996 when Gingrich was the house speaker, he recommended weakening a bill that created a commission to examine the explosive growth of legalized gambling. A number of well-connected GOP lobbyists successfully opposed giving the commission subpoena powers, the Washington Post reported then.
The casino industry argued that such power would compromise confidential records. Gingrich agreed. Anti-gambling groups claimed the examination of casino records would show how the industry intentionally victimizes vulnerable people, according to the Post.
Ultimately, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission was created without the subpoena power. It issued a compelling but neutered report that highlighted many concerns about the spread of state-sponsored gambling. The commission’s main recommendation called for a moratorium on any gambling expansion until more study was done to better understand the costs.
That recommendation was ignored. Instead, casinos have opened in a number of states, including Pennsylvania. Gambling fever has taken hold in the halls of power in Washington, D.C. and many state houses. Efforts to legalize Internet gambling and sports betting are heating up, a legacy of the growth Gingrich helped allow.
That’s not all that Gingrich has done to help his billionaire casino crony. In 1999, Gingrich supported Adelson’s efforts to combat union organizers at his palatial Venetian casino in Las Vegas. Shelley Berkley, a Democratic congresswoman from Nevada, was Adelson’s vice-president of legal and government affairs at the time. Berkley says Adelson told her that “Democrats were with the union and he wanted to break the back of the union, consequently he had to break the back of the Democrats,” according to a profile of Adelson in the New Yorker.
Berkley later wrote a letter to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that said Adelson offered to fund her campaign if she switched to the Republican ticket. “I have unique personal knowledge of how Mr. Adelson seeks to dominate politics and public policy through the raw power of money.”
Gingrich and Adelson also share the same hawkish views on Israel, including opposing a two-state solution for Palestine and Israel, and wanting to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Adelson defended Gingrich when he stirred some controversy by saying that the Palestinians are an “invented people.”
In addition to the recent $10 million combined contribution, Adelson donated $7.7 million between 2006 and 2010 to another PAC with ties to Gingrich, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He has also allowed Gingrich the use of his private jet from time to time.
The Adelsons’ $10 million contribution has upended the GOP presidential race. Apparently, he isn’t done yet. Politico reported last month that Adelson has discussed donating $20 million to help Gingrich’s campaign.
There is only one problem for Adelson: Newt’s chances of getting elected president are about as good as the odds in Adelson’s casinos.