Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Latest Sign of 'Broken' Democracy as Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Drops $30 Million on GOP Super PAC

"Democracy means one person, one vote. It does not mean billionaires like Sheldon Adelson buying elections," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Jessica Corbett

Dr. Miriam Adelson talks with her husband, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, during a speech by Vice President Mike Pence at the Republican at The Venetian Las Vegas on February 24, 2017. (Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

With the midterm elections less than six months out, casino mogul and right-wing megadonor Sheldon Adelson has reportedly cut a $30 million check to the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF)—a super PAC that works to keep Republicans in control of the U.S. House—provoking renewed calls for stricter campaign finance rules nationwide.

"Democracy means one person, one vote. It does not mean billionaires like Sheldon Adelson buying elections," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a longtime advocate of shifting to publicly funded elections, tweeted in response to Politico's exclusive report.

"The long-sought donation was sealed last week," Politico reported, citing two senior Republicans. According to the pair of anonymous insiders:

House Speaker Paul Ryan flew to Las Vegas to meet with the billionaire at his Venetian Hotel. Also at the meeting with Adelson was his wife, Miriam; Norm Coleman, the former Minnesota senator who chairs the Republican Jewish Coalition; Corry Bliss, who oversees the super PAC; and Jake Kastan, Ryan's No. 2 political aide. They laid out a case to Adelson about how crucial it is to protect the House.

As a federally elected official, Ryan is not permitted to solicit seven-figure political donations. When Ryan (R-Wis.) left the room, Coleman made the ask and secured the $30 million contribution.

This infusion of cash, Politico noted, "is three times as much as Adelson gave to CLF in 2016," and comes three months earlier—likely due to rising fears within the Republican Party about holding onto a majority in the House, as "dozens of incumbents [are] being outraised by emboldened Democratic challengers."

While President Donald Trump and Republican congressional candidates have risen to power in recent years by appealing to working-class voters, as Matt Yglesias writes for Vox, "The commitment of the likes of Adelson to the GOP cause is a reminder that despite the way culture war topics dominate the messaging of Republican Party politicians, economic issues remain core to the actual stakes of American politics."

"The $30 million the octogenarian casino billionaire is spending on the midterms may sound like a lot, but it's actually a drop in the bucket compared to what Adelson's heirs will gain thanks to the estate tax cut provisions of Trump tax bill alone," Yglesias points out, referencing claims that in just the first few months of 2018, Adelson banked $670 million thanks to the GOP's recent tax code overhaul.

"Throw in the benefits of the other tax cut provisions and Adelson's interest in maintaining a business-friendly National Labor Relations Board and the investment is very small and sensible," Yglesias concluded. "The same goes for even richer people like the Koch brothers, who are planning to spend even larger sums in the midterms."

Chair of the Patriotic Millionaires Morris Pearl said Thursday that Adelson's contribution "is yet another sign of just how broken our political system is. Rather than try to write and pass policy that is actually good for their constituents, Congress follows the money and does whatever their billionaire donors tell them to do, consequences for the rest of the country be damned."

News of Adelson's massive donation was met with demands that lawmakers "fix the system," and as Libby Watson notes at Splinter, "Studies continue to find that money in politics is a big issue for voters."

One such study from the University of Maryland found that the large majority of Republicans and Democrats "would support a constitutional amendment outlawing Citizens United," the landmark Supreme Court ruling that opened the floodgates for corporate contributions to political campaigns.

"And yet news of this gigantic donation—a clear case of a billionaire seeking to influence politics—will almost certainly do less harm to the GOP's reputation than the donation itself will bolster their electoral prospects," Watson muses, "partly because the public feels the Democrats do exactly same thing, which they mostly do, just not as successfully."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'This Cannot Happen': Biden DHS Seeks Contractor for Migrant Detention Center at Guantánamo Bay

The solicitation for bids—which requires some guards who speak Spanish and Haitian Creole—comes as the administration is under fire for mass deportations of migrants, including thousands of Haitians.

Jessica Corbett ·

Global Vaccine Goals 'Fall Terribly Short' Due to Big Pharma and Rich Nations' Greed: Experts

"Wealthy nations are using up the world's vaccine supply, and developing nations are suffering and losing thousands of people every day."

Brett Wilkins ·

11 Senators Support House Progressives' Push to Pass Full Biden Agenda

"We voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill with the clear commitment that the two pieces of the package would move together along a dual track."

Jessica Corbett ·

Ex-Prisoners Recall US Torture at 'Afghanistan's Abu Ghraib'

"It is psychologically hard for me to recall all that was happening," said one former Bagram Air Base inmate. "The torture was mostly done by Afghans, sometimes the Americans. But the orders came from the U.S."

Brett Wilkins ·

Rapid Shift to Electric Vehicles Could Create Over 150,000 Jobs in US by 2030

A new report says "smart" pro-labor policies by lawmakers would transform the "inevitable" shift to EVs "into a new beginning for U.S. producers and the rebuilding of a foundation for good jobs."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo