Billionaire Sheldon Adelson has a history of illegal behavior and controversial comments — facts that were left out of mainstream print reporting on GOP candidates trying to win his favor last week.
The Republican Jewish Coalition met March 27-29 in Las Vegas, and the event was dubbed the “Adelson Primary" as GOP presidential hopefuls used the meeting to fawn over magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., a casino and resort operating firm, who reportedly spent nearly $150 million attempting to buy the 2012 election with donations to a super PAC aligned with Mitt Romney and other outside groups (including Karl Rove’s American Crossroads). Before switching allegiance to Romney, Adelson had donated millions to Newt Gingrich. He has also given generously in the past to super PACs associated with a variety of Republican politicians, including Scott Walker, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, George W. Bush, and Eric Cantor.
Hoping to benefit from Adelson’s largesse, potential 2016 Republican candidates including Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush gathered at Adelson’s casino to “kiss the ring.”
While Republicans’ efforts to court Adelson made big news in print media over the past week, none of the articles mentioning Adelson in The New York Times, Washington Post, Politico, or The Wall Street Journal mentioned that he has come under investigation for illegal business practices, including bribery, or his history of extreme remarks.
A search of the Nexis and Factiva databases from March 24 to March 31 turned up several articles in the papers mentioning the billionaire, none of which mentioned Adelson’s checkered past. The New York Times called Adelson “one of the Republican Party’s most coveted and fearsome moneymen” and detailed his current fight against online gambling, while The Washington Post's March 25 preview of the event simply reported that Adelson was “driven by what he has said he sees as Obama’s socialist agenda. He is a fierce opponent of organized labor and is currently embroiled in a fight to ban online gambling.”
In 2012, Adelson’s corporation came under three different investigations from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Justice Department, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), an anti-bribery statute. Additionally, the Times reported at the time that several of the company’s subsidiaries also “came under investigation by Chinese regulators.”
Adelson allegedly attempted to bribe the Chief Executive of Macau, where a substantial portion of his casino business was located, and reportedly instructed Sands Corp. to bribe a Macau legislator with about $700,000 in “legal fees.” (ProPublica reported that “several Las Vegas Sands executives resigned or were fired after expressing concerns” about the fee.) A former Sands Corp. executive also alleged that Adelson fired him after he refused to engage in illegal activity and protested the presence of Chinese organized crime syndicates in Sands’ Macau casinos.
Adelson initially insisted that he was being unfairly targeted, but Sands Corp.’s own audit committee ultimatelyadmitted there were “likely violations” of the anti-bribery law. And in August 2013, Sands Corp. agreed to pay the federal government more than $47 million in a settlement to resolve a separate money-laundering investigation, in which the casinos were accused of “accepting millions from high-rolling gamblers accused of drug trafficking and embezzlement.”
Adelson has been described as a “fervent Zionist” for his opposition to any Palestinian state, and his hatred of Islam goes so far that he has said ”You don’t have to worry about using the word ‘Islamo-fascism’ or ‘Islamo-terrorist,’ when that’s what they are. Not all Islamists are terrorists, but all the terrorists are Islamists.” He has suggested that all Palestinians “teach their children that Jews are descended from swine and apes, pigs and monkeys,” and said that “all they want to do is kill” Jews.
As Rick Perlstein has noted in Rolling Stone, Adelson is also vociferously opposed to unions. In 1999, when Adelson built a new casino, he failed to pay so many of his contractors that they filed a whopping 366 liens against the property, in addition to filing complaints with stage agencies and the FBI. When the new casino eventually opened, union workers protested outside — and Adelson twice demanded that police arrest the peaceful protestors (emphasis added):
Adelson told the cops to start making arrests; the cops refused. Glen Arnodo, an official at the union at the time, relates what happened next: “I was standing on the sidewalk and they had two security guards say I was on private property, and if I didn’t move they’d have to put me under ‘citizen’s arrest.’ I ignored them.” The guards once again told the police to arrest Arnodo and again, he says, they refused. The Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis, in town to support the rally, said the whole thing reminded him of living in the South during Jim Crow.
Afterwards, Adelson went so far as to allegedly attempt to pay off a hospital when it announced it would honor the head of the Vegas hotel workers union.
Adelson told The Wall Street Journal that the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill which would allow workers to unionize a workplace with majority sign-up, was “one of the two fundamental threats to society.” The other was radical Islam.
If print outlets are going to devote space to the fight among Republicans to win Adelson’s favor (and money), they owe it to readers to give a more accurate picture of the man holding the wallet.