The Good, the Bad and the Telling of Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson spent at least $90 million and possibly as much as $150 million on this year’s elections and says he could double down next time. That is good, bad and telling.

The good is that Adelson has a talent for picking losers. The only candidate whom Adelson or his family supported directly who won was Dean Heller. Beyond that, Adelson poured his money down the drain with Newt Gingrich, then gave big money to PACs like the one run by Karl Rove, whom Adelson really should view as having fleeced him.

The other good side is that Adelson is among those who wants to improve the Republican Party,
especially through the grass roots. As presently constituted, the Republicans aren’t a legitimate political party, since they have no useful ideas that they or Democrats didn’t propose a long time ago, and that’s bad for the country. We need strong parties with liberals, moderates and conservatives, and only the Democratic Party now fits that description.

The bad is that Adelson and other donors would want to create a Republican Party in their own domineering image.

The telling part runs a little deeper. During the presidential campaign, as The New York Times reported, Adelson “invited himself” to the law office of Ed Koch, the 88-year-old former Democratic mayor of New York City who has been particularly critical of the Obama administration on its policies toward Israel. Koch said, “His opening line was, ‘People have told me you’re the only person in the world that can elect Romney in Florida.’” Koch replied, “Don’t be ridiculous.  It is not true,” although he added, “I wanted to say, ‘Well maybe it’s partially true.’”  He apparently told Adelson no because he disagreed with Mitt Romney on most major issues.

Adelson appears to have thought that Koch would be agreeable because the two of them seem to subscribe to the theory that Israel can do no wrong. Yet he found that unlike Adelson, Koch doesn’t believe that Obama and other Democrats can do no right.

Further, the Adelson family’s support for Heller ties in with that. Adelson fired Shelley Berkley during the 1990s and has opposed her since. What makes that interesting is that the only member of Congress who may be more strongly pro-Israel than Adelson is Berkley. Her willingness to support unions and social programs seems to trump that for Adelson. Adelson said he opposes Obamacare “because it’s making the [medical] decisions based upon money,” but likes the Israeli system, which he called “socialized medicine.” Yet he also told an associate years ago, on switching to the GOP, “Why is it fair that I should be paying a higher percentage of taxes than anyone else?”

So, Adelson backed Berkley’s opponent, Heller. Adelson suffers from a neurological disorder that requires him to use a cane and a motor scooter. His wife Miriam is a doctor specializing in treatment of drug abuse, and those who receive drug abuse treatment or have been rehabilitated qualify under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Yet Adelson supported a senator who voted against the U.N. Convention on disabilities. That tells us a lot about Heller. It may tell us more about Sheldon Adelson.