By Bill Berkowitz
Buzz Flash, February 6, 2012
While Newt Gingrich was taking it on the chin in Florida, thousands of miles away in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was beating back a challenge to his Likud Party leadership from ultranationalists, thus making it a so-so week for Sheldon Adelson.
Over the years, Adelson's largesse has gone to support Gingrich's assorted political projects, including his run for the Republican Party's presidential nomination; a range of so-called pro-Israel organizations in the U.S.; and, Netanyahu's political career.
Adelson isn't one of those shy billionaires (think Phil Anschutz) who wince every time their name appears in the media, but I'm not sure that even the casino magnate -- listed by Forbes magazine as the eighth-richest man in America with a net worth of $21.5 billion - would have figured that by the time the Florida Republican Party primaries were over, that he would be scrutinized a heck of a lot more than he has been in the past. As has been widely reported, it was a $5 million donation by Adelson to Newt Gingrich's Winning the Future super PAC, that helped Gingrich purchase the attack ads that paved the way for the former House Speaker's victory in South Carolina.
And it was another $5 million, from Adelson's Israeli-born wife Miriam, which allowed Gingrich to put up any kind of fight in Florida.
Now the Adelson family, made extraordinarily wealthy through gambling casinos in Las Vegas and Macao, will help decide the fate of Gingrich.
Should Adelson, the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and one of the wealthiest men in the world, continue pouring money into Gingrich's campaign, or is time to cash in the chips and move on over to the frontrunner's camp?
Underlying this question is the reality that, according to the Institute for Policy Studies' Right Web, Adelson "is an important financial backer of right-wing ‘pro-Israel' groups in the United States and elsewhere in the world, as well as a prominent supporter of key Likud Party officials."
Adelson is also a close friend and major supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In 2006, Adelson was so upset that the three major Israeli newspapers seemed to have an anti-Netanyahu bent, that he started his own daily newspaper, called Israel Today or Israel Hayom. According to The Daily Beast's Aram Roston, the newspaper at first had so much trouble selling advertising that Adelson decided to give it away for free. "The formula worked: it's now the most widely distributed paper in Israel," Roston reported in December.
In a recent edition of The New Republic, Noam Scheiber laid out a case for Adelson continuing to grease Gingrich's skids: "Newt is still popular enough with conservatives, and Romney still sufficiently unloved, that another $5 or $10 million haul would create more than a minor annoyance for the ostensible frontrunner in the coming months, a time when Romney would like to be training his fire on Barack Obama."
Scheiber pointed out that "Even amid his general evisceration in Florida, Newt still beat Romney handily among the Republican voters who consider themselves ‘very conservative' (42 percent to 30 for Romney) and strong Tea Party supporters (45 percent to 33), both of which accounted for about one-third of the electorate. The combination of that rump of support and the Adelson money could produce several victories for Gingrich on Super Tuesday alone, when voters in Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee all go to the polls."
Gingrich could continue to be an irritant to Mitt Romney, but probably most important to Adelson is that Gingrich keeps pushing Romney to the right regarding Israel.
"As for Israel," Scheiber notes, "it's hard to believe Romney didn't have one eye on Vegas when he said things like, ‘This president went before the United Nations and castigated Israel for building settlements, he said nothing about thousands of rockets being rained in on Israel from the Gaza Strip,' as he did in Thursday night's debate."
The Daily Beast's Aram Roston pointed out that Adelson is "a staunch supporter of groups such as the Zionist Organization of America and other such groups, which believe Palestinians have no valid claims." He told the Jewish Telegraph Agency that he was "not against a two-state solution if it is on the right terms," but he didn't think "the right terms will ever be achieved." According to Roston, "Adelson also sponsored a seminar in 2008 provocatively titled the ‘Islamic Jihad in America: What You Need to Know about Radical Muslim Infiltration of American Culture, Finance, Education, and Life,'" and in November of last year, "Adelson appeared on the stage of the Zionist Organization of America to present ... Glenn Beck with a ‘Defender of Israel' Award. ‘I'd never known a Christian Zionist like Glenn Beck,' Adelson said." In a recent interview with Paul Jay, Senior Editor of The Real News Network, Max Blumenthal, an award-winning journalist and bestselling author, talked about Gingrich, Adelson and the casino magnate's connections to Israel. Blumenthal pointed out that early on, "Gingrich was not known as an extreme hawk on the issue of Israel-Palestine or Iraq or Iran. During the '90s he welcomed Yassir Arafat to Washington during the Oslo era. Gingrich had made statements that seemed sort of moderate about the peace process, until he met ... Adelson, who he met through a mutual friend in Las Vegas who was helping Sheldon Adelson do a unionbusting effort at [the Venetian] his casino."
Apparently, with the help of George Harris, now the campaign finance co-chair of Gingrich's campaign, Adelson stopped the unionization effort.
After being forced out of Congress, Gingrich joined the American Enterprise Institute, where, Blumenthal pointed out, much of the rationales for the Iraq War "was generated." Gingrich then moved on to found American Solutions for Winning the Future, to which Adelson gave more than $7 million over a several year period.
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