Billionaire casino boss Sheldon Adelson splashes the cash in bid to help Trump

The casino billionaire and ardent Israel backer Sheldon Adelson is expected to have written about $250m in checks to back Donald Trump, Republican Senate and House members and conservative causes, say two GOP fundraising sources familiar with the mega-donor’s spending plans.

Adelson and his wife Miriam, an Israeli-born physician, have already spent a single election record sum of $183m through 14 October, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Since late summer, when Adelson began bankrolling a new pro-Trump Super Pac, dubbed Preserve America, the 87-year-old Adelson and his wife have poured $75m into its coffers, making them its leading financiers.

To date, Preserve America, has raised $83.8m, and has been running ads attacking Democrat Joe Biden as “too weak to lead America”.

Adelson – who sources say talks to Trump periodically – and his wife have developed close ties with Trump largely based on their similar views on pro-Israel and hawkish Middle East policies.

The Trump administration pleased Adelson and other conservatives by moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and Trump officials adopted a hardline stance against Iran by scrapping the Obama administration’s nuclear accord with Tehran, and recently wooed the UAE and other nations to recognize Israel.

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson have also donated $50m to a Super Pac called the Senate Leadership Fund, which is run by close allies of Mitch McConnell and to date has raised over $308m to keep the Chamber in GOP hands.

Adelson, whose net worth is pegged at almost $32bn by Forbes, has long been the top bankroller of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a conservative pro-Israel lobbying group whose board he sits on.

The RJC is on track to spend a record $10m to help woo Jewish voters in several battleground states including Florida and Pennsylvania, where the group hopes its ads and get-out-the-vote work can help Trump pull off wins again, as he did in 2016.

Further, Adelson has written big checks for some Super Pacs backing Senate allies facing tough races, including South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, a staunch Israel backer. The couple have donated $1m to the pro-Graham pac Security is Strength.

The Adelsons have also kicked in $40m to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super Pac that backs House GOP candidates; the Pac’s fundraising depends heavily on ex-senator Norm Coleman, who is known for his close Adelson ties.

In 2018, the Adelsons spent $124m overall to Super Pacs, campaign committees and candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).

The Adelsons typically donate much of their money late in election cycles, and historically give a mix of publicly disclosed checks, and others to dark money outfits which remain secret.

The two sources who indicated Adelson’s total spending would reach $250m didn’t identify where the additional tens of millions of dollars were going, or if these funds have already been donated to non-profit dark money groups which don’t require public disclosure.

Adelson’s late donation spree this year has come as Trump continues to lag behind Biden in national and most battleground state polls, and as Biden’s campaign fundraising has outpaced Trump’s in recent months.

This election cycle, the second biggest donor behind the Adelsons has been New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who has spent $107m, much of it on ads in Florida to help Biden, CRP data shows.

Adelson’s huge donations have occurred even as his casino empire, which stretches from Las Vegas to Asia, has seen its revenues drop significantly this year because of the pandemic. As Bloomberg first reported, Adelson has recently begun exploring the sale of his two Vegas casinos and an expo center – which could fetch $6bn – to focus on his Macau and Singapore casinos, which in recent years have yielded higher revenues.

Trump has diligently courted both Adelson and his wife’s support since he took office. Early in 2020, Trump tapped Adelson to serve on a business council that is supposed to offer guidance on how to reopen the country, and in 2018 Trump gave Miriam the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In January, the Adelsons came to Washington for the White House’s formal announcement of Trump’s much-touted Middle East peace plan, which Trump called the “deal of the century” but which Palestinian leaders and most Arab countries dismissed as too favorable to Israel.

Trump’s cultivation of the casino billionaire has also occurred in private get-togethers in Washington and in Las Vegas, where the Adelsons live.

In May 2018, the day before Trump announced the US was going to pull out of Obama’s nuclear accord with Iran, Adelson came to Washington for a private meeting with Trump and top officials including Mike Pence and then national security adviser John Bolton, who had good ties with Adelson.

But Trump’s drive to woo Adelson conflicts with his multiple campaign pledges to “drain the swamp” in Washington to curb big donor and lobbyist influence.

“Somehow, promises to change the culture in Washington or ‘drain the swamp’ fade away when the usual mega-donors line up to throw millions at the election,” said Sheila Krumholz, who heads CRP. “It’s a seasonal amnesia.”

The Guardian

Leave a Reply