Thursday, August 02, 2012

Romney's Not-So-Sweet Sugar Daddy

Q. Who is Sheldon Adelson, and why is he trying to buy the Oval Office for Mitt Romney?

A. A 78-year-old gambling magnate with a shady history of international wheeling and dealing, hatred of labor unions, a fixation on Israel and, in the era of Citizens United, determination to spend whatever it takes to unseat Barack Obama.

Before the Supreme Court flooded obscene money into politics, Adelson was dismissed by George W. Bush as “some  crazy Jewish billionaire.” In 2012, he has morphed into the poster boy for corruption of the electoral process.

Until now, Romney’s new best friend might be seen as just another example of high-bracket arrogance and egomania who puts his money where his mouth is (pace Donald Trump), but as the malleable GOP contender bows and scrapes to him in Jerusalem, Adelson deserves a much closer look.

His clout became visible in Gingrich’s South Carolina primary victory fueled by a $16.5 million SuperPAC tip in return for the former Speaker’s past legislative favors but, as Newt faded, Adelson grudgingly turned to Romney, who leaped into his leash without so much as slipping Gingrich a finder’s fee.

In this era of news snippets and sound bites, researching Sheldon Adelson’s history is a headache-inducing experience, but the outlines of a dark HoratioAlger American success story are clear.      

A child of dirt-poor immigrants, he clawed his way to wealth with computer trade shows in the 1980s and, a decade later, invested in Las Vegas casinos, pivoting right politically after bruising battles with unions. In 1991, he married an Israeli-born MD specializing in drug addiction and, under her influence, became obsessed with Holy Land politics to the point of turning into a right-wing nuisance in Israel.

Adelson expanded into international intrigue by making deals with China to operate a casino in Macao, in a corrupt atmosphere reminiscent of old Robert Mitchum-Jane Russell movies.

A driven, visceral man whose public pronouncements betray limited intellectual content, Sheldon Adelson is on the brink of funneling untold millions into electing Mitt Romney.

He has a right to his opinions but, if he succeeds, the degradation of American politics under Citizens United will be complete.

Update: Adelson demonstrates his usual way of handling criticism by threatening to sue the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and bullying them into retracting accusations that he profits from prostitution at his Chinese resorts.

Pimping is not his style, unlike the candidates he supports.

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