Fortune is reporting that billionaire and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson has purchased The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the largest paper in the 2016 election battleground state of Nevada.
Adelson would be a troubling owner for the Las Vegas paper. The casino magnate has spent millions supporting right-wing candidates and causes. He has a checkered past when it comes to his business dealings and practices, and he is anti-Muslim and anti-union.
The timing of the purchase would provide Adelson with many opportunities to advance his interests, both politically and personally. The reported purchase gives Adelson the largest newspaper in a crucial state for both the Republican primary and the 2016 general election. The seat held by Sen. Harry Reid will also be up for grabs next year. And the businessman operates “America's largest casino company” in Las Vegas, where the paper is based.
The Israeli publication Haaretz reported last year that Adelson said he doesn't like journalism:
Adelson already owns Israel Hayom, a free Israeli newspaper widely seen as reflecting the positions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is considered close to Adelson, and, more recently, news website NRG and religious newspaper Makor Rishon.
“I don't like journalism,” Adelson said, highlighting what he said was the media's insistence on focusing on the empty half of the glass.
CNN's Brian Stelter reported following the Fortune report that Adelson told him last night “I have no personal interest” in the paper and “repeatedly indicated that he is not” the owner and “seemed to be enjoying the guessing game.” He added on Twitter, “All signs point to Adelson, and his answers to my questions surprised me.”
Here are four reasons why Adelson's reported purchase of The Las Vegas Review-Journal is a cause for concern:
1. Adelson Is A GOP Megadonor
RealClearPolitics reported in October 2014 that Adelson is perhaps “the most coveted man in Republican presidential politics” because of his deep pockets. Adelson, whose net worth is estimated at $24.5 billion, reportedly spent $100 million to defeat President Obama in 2012 (emphasis in original):
The stakes of getting on his good side are enormous. In 2012, Adelson spent $20 million supporting Newt Gingrich, single-handedly keeping him afloat during the primaries and doing great damage to Mitt Romney in the process; then, after Gingrich finally fell, Adelson shelled out $30 million to plump up Romney. All told, Adelson reportedly spent $100 million against Obama in 2012. In 2016, says one prominent Republican operative, “every candidate thinks, I can either be the Gingrich of the cycle, meaning Sheldon could give me oxygen, or I don't want to be on the opposite side of who his Gingrich is this cycle. They want to benefit from Sheldon's largesse or make sure no one else benefits from it.”
The Huffington Post reported that Adelson and his wife, Miriam, “spent about $100 million on political causes during the 2014 cycle, according to multiple sources.”
Adelson is also a major donor to the financial network organized by industrialists Charles and David Koch, with the Huffington Post reporting that in 2014, “Adelson's donations to Phillips' outfit [Americans for Prosperity] and other Koch-funded organizations accounted for a significant portion -- nearly $30 million -- of this haul, according to two conservatives familiar with the network.”
The New York Times recently wrote that for the 2016 Republican primary, Adelson “had been rumored for months to be leaning toward supporting Mr. Rubio, but he is also said to be truly uncertain about what to do.”
Tracking Adelson's spending may be a difficult task. The American Prospect's Justin Miller wrote that “Adelson's spending has become less transparent. GOP insiders have said that he's given more and more to prominent dark-money groups rather than to super PACs that must disclose donors.”
2. Adelson Has A History Of Questionable Business Practices
As Media Matters noted in March 2014, Adelson has a checkered past when it comes to his business dealings:
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 ultimately admitted 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.”
3. Adelson Is Staunchly Islamophobic
Adelson has stated: “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.”
Reporter Peter Beinart wrote in Haaretz of Adelson's views of Palestinians and Muslims:
Then there's Adelson's view that the Palestinians are an “invented people.” Again, flip it around. In 2008, when Tel Aviv University's Shlomo Sand published a book called “The Invention of the Jewish People,” he was widely called anti-Semitic. When Adelson says the same about Palestinians, he's a Republican rock star.
This isn't hawkishness. It's hate. Hawks acknowledge that there are divisions among Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, but argue that, at this moment in time, the forces of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic militancy have the upper hand. For Adelson, by contrast, there are no distinctions. All Palestinians and all Muslims are detestable killers. It's just who they are. “There isn't a Palestinian alive who wasn't raised on a curriculum of hatred and hostility toward the Jews,” he told the Jewish Press in 2011. “They don't want the Jews or any other religion to be alive,” he said in the same interview. “The Muslims...want to kill 100 percent of the Jews,” he explained last fall. “Not all Islamists are terrorists but all the terrorists are Islamists,” he opined in 2012.
4. Adelson Is Committed “To Crushing Labor Unions To Dust”
Historian Rick Perlstein wrote in Rolling Stone that Adelson is devoted “to crushing labor unions to dust ... Adelson's anti-union mania (I would argue) is the most important thing to know about him. For it reveals just how crazy, and how unscrupulous, the man is.” Perlstein wrote of one battle Adelson had with union workers:
In 1999, Adelson closed one casino, the Sands, and completed work on a new one, the Venetian, stiffing so many contractors that there were at one time 366 liens against the property. Taylor, of the Culinary Workers, said he and his colleagues presumed that “like every other casino that had done that, workers in the [closed] hotel would be given priority when the [new] hotel was built.” Instead, Adelson refused even to talk. All this, in a union town like Vegas, was unprecedented. “Even when you're having battles, you continue to have talks. Shit, we're talking to the North Koreans right now!” he told me. “The Israelis talk to the Arabs. Talking doesn't necessarily solve anything, but at least you understand the other guy's position.” Adelson, not much interested in understanding the other guy's position, proceeded to launch a campaign against the Culinary Workers that Taylor calls “beyond aggressive.”
Right before the grand opening of the Venetian, in 1999, the Culinary Workers staged a demonstration on the public sidewalk out front. 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.
A Wall Street Journal profile stated that Adelson views legislation supported by unions as one of the “fundamental threats to society” (alongside “radical Islam” ):
Mr. Adelson views radical Islam, he says, as “one of the two fundamental threats to society” -- a view promoted by his Adelson Center for Strategic Studies in Jerusalem. (The other big threat, he says, is a union-promoted measure to curtail the use of secret ballots in union-organizing elections.)