Sheldon Adelson, “Edward Clarkin,” and the Perils of Plutocracy

This seems like a bad movie plot, but apparently it’s all true:

1. Billionaire Republican donor Sheldon Adelson is involved in a lawsuit in Nevada about the corrupt practices of his casino in Macao. (Technically, it’s a wrongful-termination case brought by someone who claims to have been fired for blowing the whistle.)

2. Adelson has been fighting with the judge, Elizabeth Gonzalez.

3. Through a cut-out, Adelson bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the dominant newspaper in the state, keeping his ownership a secret until others broke the story.

4. Three staffers at the paper were then ordered to do a hit-piece on the judge. No story resulted.

5. The editor of the Review-Journal then learned, by reading the front page of his own newspaper, that he had “accepted a buy-out.”

6. Michael Schroeder, who runs Adelson’s media empire, Michael Schroeder, and who also publishes a small paper in Connecticut, went straight to the printer of that paper, over the head of the editorial staff, to order a 2000-word piece critical of Judge Gonzalez to run there.

7. People quoted in the story say they were never contacted by the reporter whose by-line appears on the story, Edward Clarkin.

8. In fact, no one seems to have ever met Edward Clarkin in person. However, Schroeder’s middle name is “Edward,” and his mother’s maiden name was “Clarkin.” (No, serioulsy.)

9. A reporter for Schroeder’s paper quit in disgust.

Despite its comic-opera aspects, this story is truly scary. If plutocrats can buy newspapers to intimidate judges, what happens to the rule of law? And how much of Adelson’s media power will be exercised on behalf of his business partners in the Chinese Politburo? They made him a billionaire by giving him the casino concession in Macau, and they can take it away at a moment’s notice.

Here’s hoping this gets to be an issue in the campaign. I’d love to the Republican presidential candidates say what they think of Adelson’s behavior. Come to think of it, I’d love to hear Hillary Clinton do so.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.