Sheldon Adelson—Billionaire, Casino Magnate…and Political Kingmaker? (With a Mark Fiore Video)


Back in late March, Josh Green of Bloomberg Businessweek spoke on Bloomberg TV about a number of Republican politicians who traveled to Las Vegas to meet with—and “kiss the ring” of—Sheldon Adelson. The politicians—including governors Chris Christie (NJ), John Kasich (OH), and Scott Walker (WI)—all appear to be interested in running for president in 2016. It appears they’re also eager to curry favor with Adelson—the Chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands and one of the richest men in the world. Adelson has been extremely generous in the past with campaign donations to Republican candidates for office. The casino magnate was reported to have spent approximately $150 million dollars in an attempt to defeat President Obama and to help the GOP take control of Congress in 2012.

2016: Who’s Kissing the Ring of Sheldon Adelson?

As Pulitzer-Prize-Winning political cartoonist Mark Fiore put it, those Republican presidential hopefuls “went down to Las Vegas to bow at the feet of Sheldon Adelson, democracy-meddling billionaire extraordinaire.” Fiore added, “It was a pretty sorry sight as each of the potential candidates tried to out-Israel and out-tough the other as they vied for Adelson’s attention.

Sheldon Adelson’s Menagerie 


#9 Sheldon Adelson (Forbes)

Sheldon Adelson’s Menagerie (Mark Fiore)

Sheldon Adelson Spent Far More On Campaign Than Previously Known (Huffington Post)

Sheldon Adelson Spent $150 Million on Election: Only a third of the casino billionaire’s contributions were reported to the FEC. (US News)

How Much Did Sheldon Adelson Really Spend on Campaign 2012? (ProPublica)

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15 Responses to Sheldon Adelson—Billionaire, Casino Magnate…and Political Kingmaker? (With a Mark Fiore Video)

  1. Mike Spindell says:

    Mr. Adelson confirms the fact that just like everyone else, some Jews can be selfish assholes.

  2. Tony C. says:

    I find it encouraging that Adelson (and many others) proves financing is not a very reliable indicator of electoral success.

    It is true that there is a high correlation between money spent and winning, HOWEVER, I believe much of that correlation is due to a feedback mechanism that a simplistic correlation cannot capture. I think the most popular (likable) candidate gets the most donations just because people want that candidate to win, and because they get more donations they also spend more than their opponent. So that makes it look like money decided the race, but in fact it was popularity that decided both the race AND the amount of money available to spend.

    Adelson tried to defeat Romney’s nomination by spending money, and his money failed there, because Republicans wanted a candidate that “could win.” In that sense, Romney won the popularity contest, and Adelson’s money did not matter.

    Then, once we have front-runners, the influence-buyers step in and contribute heavily to those candidates and ignore also-rans. So again, those that receive the most spend the most. It makes it look like money decided the race, but in fact the race was decided by popularity. Becoming a front runner is a popularity contest, and it is the popularity that attracts money, NOT the money that makes somebody popular.

    As was proven by the election itself, no amount of money could make Romney popular to 50.1% of voters. Just like no amount of advertising is going to make anchovy ice cream more popular than vanilla, there are some human reactions we just cannot buy.

    I do think that money plays a role in electoral success. But I think there is a point of vanishing returns (not just diminishing, but vanishing). Once voters know you are out there and have committed beliefs about your politics, repeating it doesn’t help. If candidates have the money, they spend it anyway just in case, but it isn’t really helping.

    The many politicians that have used their personal fortunes to try and prove otherwise have instead proved my premise: You have to be popular (even if the personality is faked by a sociopath) in order to win; when it comes to the voting booth voters do not care if you spent a hundred million or a billion. That isn’t money in their pocket, and they vote for the person based on their mental model of how well the candidate represents them.

    The problem with money in politics is NOT, in my opinion, whether money can buy an electoral outcome. I am really only worried about money buying politicians, I believe that graft and bribery have been legalized and money buys both legislative outcomes and immunity from the law and regulations. That is a problem with politicians, not a problem with spending on campaign ads.

  3. Elaine M. says:


    Sometimes campaign money does have a big impact on primaries. Big money has also helped people like Governor Scott Walker to get elected.

    From Mark Fiore:
    “Even though ol’ Sheldon didn’t have a very good track record on his bets last go-round, he has a huge impact on the primaries, even if his horses don’t win in the end. We are witnessing the selling out of democracy to cheesy casino-owners. (Because, y’know, some people have more free speech than others if they have a few billion to throw around.)”

  4. swarthmoremom says: The Koch Bros pac is certainly helping republicans in their attempt to take the senate.

  5. swarthmoremom says:

    Romney outspent Gingich by more that 12 million dollars in Florida and after that it was pretty much over.

  6. Tony C. says:

    SMom: You are ignoring my point: The winner often outspends the loser, but that is because the winner is inherently more popular than the loser to the constituents voting, and therefore gets more donations, and therefore has more to spend. So there is a correlation, but it is the reverse of the causation you think you are observing.

    And the same thing is true for the journalists you are citing: They are also assuming money caused a win that was caused by popularity, which also caused donations, which then allowed excessive spending.

    Meg Whitman spent $144M of her own money, and in her campaign outspent Jerry Brown by $140M, in fact outspent him $178M to $38M (a factor of 4.7x), and she still lost to him by 13 percentage points. That is because Jerry Brown is inherently more popular than Meg Whitman. Money has limited power to cause wins. Not zero, but limited, there is a point of vanishing returns. Whitman would probably have had the same loss by 13 points if she spent just $40M more than Brown; she could have saved herself $100M.

  7. swarthmoremom says:

    Tony, It is hard to say how large a role money played because Romney;s opponents by and large were flawed right wing fringe and tea party candidates. That includes Perry. Paul, Bachmann, Santorum and Gingrich. Adelson is correct in that however much money is thrown at these fringe candidates, they are unlikely to win under the current circumstances, and, therefore, he is only interviewing what he considers to be mainstream republicans.

  8. Elaine M. says:


    Big money has helped some candidates get elected–as I mentioned in an earlier comment. Being backed by big moneyed people like Adelson and the Kochs doesn’t, however, ensure a candidate’s election. There are lots of dark money groups funneling campaign donations into elections at many different levels–national, state, and municipal. I don’t think we know how many candidates had help getting elected because of those donations.

  9. swarthmoremom says:

    Romney’s… i put my glasses on. lol

  10. swarthmoremom says:


  11. swarthmoremom says: Jeb Bush was booed by conservatives for his remarks on immigration.

  12. swarthmoremom says: “Huckabee seemed especially determined to show he could compete for conservative votes against politicians like Paul and Cruz, who have each earned a devoted following among tea party activists. While the two senators mostly stuck to their usual talking points, Huckabee offered an extra large serving of red meat.

    “My gosh, I’m beginning to think that there’s more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States,” he said in his remarks. “When I go to the airport, I have to get in the surrender position, people put hands all over me, and I have to provide photo ID and a couple of different forms and prove that I really am not going to terrorize the airplane – but if I want to go vote I don’t need a thing.” Yikes, it’s hard to believe that the primaries are less than a year away.

  13. swarthmoremom says: Top Christie donor Ken Langone still supports Christie. Says Jeb Bush has a lot of baggage.

  14. Anonymouly Yours says:

    What’s a few assholes between politicians Mike…..

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