Adelson’s Ideological Dollars

Mike Allen of Politico got some face-time with Sheldon Adelson, and wrote a profile of the casino mogul and maximum GOP donor that should be of interest to those of us–which means all of us–who might be affected by the man’s views.

According to Allen, Adelson himself ticked off five reasons he’s giving so heavily this year. The first and most interesting is probably “self-defense;” he thinks the Obama administration is conspiring to take down his business empire and maybe send him to tennis prison. Another way of putting it, of course, is that the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have exhibited a keen interest in his vast operations in Vegas and (especially) Asia, which involve places and enterprises where skullduggery is not exactly unknown.

A second rationale cited by Adelson is very well-known: he hates unions, and loves a particular brand of right-wing Israeli politics (indeed, he is arguably more influential and controversial in Israel than here, thanks to his ownership of Israel Hayom, a free, high-circulation pro-Netanyahu newspaper.

A third reason for Adelson’s hyper-activism involves what Allen describes as a high level of annoyance with inefficiency on the American Right:

Adelson has played a previously unreported role that has helped maximize the outside groups’ muscle. He has insisted that they coordinate their efforts, making the spending more efficient. “If word got back to him that a group wasn’t cooperating, he’d cut them off,” said a top official at one of the groups, who deals personally with Adelson. “It’s to maximize the dollars. You don’t want repetition. You don’t people doubling up. He doesn’t want to feel like his money is wasted.”

It appears Adelson is using his leverage to herd conservative organizations into the strategic corral maintained by Karl Rove:

One official said many donors have been pushing for such coordination, based on Rove’s Weaver Terrace Project in 2010, a meeting that brought the big conservative spenders together. “Most of the major donors have become sophisticated,” said one top Republican official. “They have a line of people out their door wanting checks, and the first question they ask is: Are you working with these groups? Sheldon is very pointed about it.”

The other two factors cited by Adelson in motivating his mega-donations are a strong concern for the future of small businesses (yeah, that’s real convincing!) and then just his personal dislike of Obama. According to Allen, Sheldon seems to have taken a deep draught of the right-wing Kool-Aid he’s paid for, and finds it tasty as well as useful as a political narcotic.

While I hope we don’t get to find out what sort of influence Adelson might have with a Romney White House (he claims he doesn’t need access, and would get it anyway without the checkbook being so wide-open), the picture Allen draws is alarming enough: a billion-dollar ad campaign whose strategic centerpoints are Adelson’s money and Bush’s Brain (Rove’s nickname during the Bush administrations in Austin and Washington). Any progressives needing additional motivation going into the stretch run of this campaign should contemplate the shadenfreude they would experience from a very bad night for these two particular gents on November 6.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.