The talk this morning is that Sheldon Adelson, the Jewish casino magnate, Israel hawk, and Newt Gingrich patron, told Forbes, “I might give $10 million or $100 million to Gingrich.” It’s an attention-grabbing statement but a largely meaningless one. Adelson’s true object, we’ve long known, is to defeat President Obama in November. There was some inkling that Adelson is against Rick Santorum because of Santorum’s hard-right stances on some social issues, and that part of the point of continuing to fund Gingrich—he is likely to give another $10 million to an affiliated Super PAC—was to draw Santorum supporters away in order to help Mitt Romney. But Adelson tells Forbes, “Most of what is being said about me in this current brouhaha is just not true.” (“Brouhaha”! Et tu, Shelly?) “I know Romney; I like him. I know Santorum; I like him. … The likelihood is that I’m going to be supportive of whoever the candidate is.” (He does add, “If Ron Paul is chosen I certainly wouldn’t do that.”)
In an interview with Tablet Magazine over the weekend, Fred Zeidman, a prominent Jewish Republican donor who has backed Romney for some time and who is friendly with Adelson, confirmed that Adelson is loyal to his friend, Gingrich, but is ultimately concerned with unseating the president. “It’s been his contention that he intended to keep Newt in the race as long as Newt wanted to stay in the race, and so I would expect that he would continue to keep him in the race,” he said. “Sheldon’s primary agenda is to beat Barack Obama, and whoever the candidate is, he would support him. If Santorum is the candidate, what are you gonna do? Cede the race to Obama?”
Zeidman couldn’t speak of Adelson’s immediate plans in terms of funding Gingrich: Adelson spent the weekend in Israel celebrating his son’s bar mitzvah, and he and Zeidman had not spoken recently. But will he really give Gingrich $100 million? “Only if he’s the candidate,” Zeidman emailed this morning.
“I know,” Zeidman added, “that after [Adelson’s] family the most important thing is Israel, and he thinks that’s in jeopardy as long as [Obama]’s our leader. That overrides everything. And the rest,” he said, in reference to some of Santorum’s less palatable positions, “we can worry about later.”
Adelson is taking a bit of flak for saying, in the Forbes interview, “I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections. But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it. Because I know that guys like [George] Soros have been doing it for years, if not decades.” Personally, I don’t see this as hypocrisy. He is playing by the rules. This spurt of news is the latest indication that the real story isn’t Adelson’s hawkish views on Israel but the astounding influence the post-Citizens United landscape gives to extremely wealthy individuals.
Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Says He Might Give $100M to Newt Gingrich or Other Republican [Forbes]
Gingrich’s Main Backer Plays Two Angles [WSJ]
Adelson To Give $10 Million More to PAC Supporting Gingrich [JTA]
GOP Campaigns Grow More Dependent on ‘Super PAC’ Aid [NYT]
Earlier: ‘Brouhaha’ Provokes a You-Know-What
The Problem With Sheldon Adelson
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.