Sheldon Adelson | Media Matters for America

Sheldon Adelson

Tags ››› Sheldon Adelson
  • Sheldon Adelson-owned Las Vegas Review-Journal endorses Adelson-backed ballot initiative, fails to disclose ownership in editorial

    Blog ››› ››› TED MACDONALD


    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    A Nevada newspaper owned by Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson published an editorial endorsing an Adelson-funded ballot initiative campaign -- and failed to disclose the connection.

    The Las Vegas Review-Journal ran an editorial on October 18 officially endorsing Nevada’s Energy Choice Initiative, or Question 3, a ballot initiative that would end utility NV Energy’s monopoly on electricity generation in Nevada and open up the state’s electricity market to competition. The editorial board failed to mention that the newspaper is owned by casino magnate and GOP campaign contributor Adelson, whose company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., has contributed millions of dollars to the PAC supporting Question 3.

    Adelson's newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is now promoting his pet political cause

    The Review-Journal endorsement of Question 3 argued that it would benefit Nevada’s consumers. But the editorial did not disclose that the newspaper is owned by Adelson, Question 3's biggest backer.

    The Review-Journal now has this editorial pinned to the top of its Twitter feed:

    Additionally, the Review-Journal sent the editorial out as a “Breaking News” alert to its readers:

    The editorial board’s position should not come as a surprise, as the paper has given favorable treatment to Adelson ever since he bought it.

    Adelson purchased the Review-Journal, the largest newspaper in Nevada, in December 2015 for $140 million. Soon after he bought the paper, Politico reported that “stories involving new owner Sheldon Adelson are being reviewed, changed or killed almost daily.” When Adelson lost an attempt to have a judge removed from a lawsuit against Las Vegas Sands, the paper's leaders told its journalists that they must monitor the judge, and when the journalists protested, they were told that the directive came from above, according to The New York Times. Adelson is also a major supporter of President Donald Trump, and the Review-Journal was one of the first major newspapers to endorse him for president in 2016.

    Question 3, which would transform Nevada’s energy market, is largely funded by Adelson's Las Vegas Sands

    Utility NV Energy currently serves about 90 percent of Nevada with electricity. According to Ballotpedia, Question 3 would require the state legislature to pass laws establishing “an open, competitive retail electric energy market”; prohibit the state from granting electrical-generation monopolies; and declare that a person or entity in Nevada has a “right to choose the provider of its electric utility service.”

    The issue of competitive markets arose in 2014 when data company Switch and several other large companies, including Las Vegas Sands, explored opportunities to stop buying electricity from NV Energy and instead purchase it on the open market. Switch was allowed to leave NV Energy’s monopoly in 2016 after agreeing to pay a $27 million exit fee determined by the Nevada Public Utilities Commission. Las Vegas Sands refused to pay a similar $24 million exit fee, and so remained a customer of NV Energy. Both companies helped form the Energy Choice Initiative campaign in 2016, leading to Question 3 first appearing on the ballot and passing with over 72 percent of the vote. Because Nevada law stipulates that constitutional amendments need to be approved in successive even-numbered election years, Question 3 is appearing on the ballot again in 2018.

    This year, Las Vegas Sands and Switch have both bankrolled the Energy Choice Initiative. As of October 12, the Yes on 3 campaign had raised more than $32.9 million, with Las Vegas Sands donating over $20 million and Switch giving close to $11 million. On the opposing side, NV Energy has largely bankrolled the No on 3 campaign, donating about $63 million in 2018. NV Energy is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which is controlled by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

    Claims that Question 3 would lead to the expansion of clean energy in Nevada are dubious

    Las Vegas Sands and the Yes on 3 campaign argue that Question 3 would expand Nevada’s clean energy options. However, in a July 2018 report examining the potential impacts of Question 3, the nonprofit Guinn Center found, “There is no correlation between restructuring electricity markets and increased renewables. And Question 3 does not explicitly require that more renewables are integrated onto the grid.” The study concluded, “The type of retail market model in a given state matters less than policy choices, such as a state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).”

    When there was an effort last year to increase Nevada's RPS, Las Vegas Sands opposed it. The company testified in opposition to AB 206, a Nevada bill that would have made the state's RPS more ambitious by requiring utilities to produce 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 80 percent by 2040. The bill was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval (R).

    Nevada voters will decide on Question 3 on November 6.

  • Racists, Corruption, And Tabloids: The Story Of Donald Trump's Newspaper Endorsements

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has received endorsements from four national newspapers -- all of which either have familial or financial connections to his campaign, have repeated falsehoods and conspiracy theories to advocate for conservative causes, or have espoused outright racist views. Meanwhile, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s newspaper endorsements include a number of Republican-leaning publications that find Trump too “dangerous” to support.

  • Las Vegas Review-Journal Smears Planned Parenthood Over Birth Control Access

    ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS & SHARON KANN

    During a recent appearance on The Dr. Oz Show, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said birth control “should not be done by prescription.” A subsequent editorial by the Las Vegas Review-Journal used Trump’s remarks to falsely claim that Planned Parenthood is “the biggest obstacle” to “the availability of and access to birth control for women,” ignoring both media and medical groups’ concern that selling birth control over the counter could make it less affordable and accessible if health insurance does not continue to cover the cost.

  • Las Vegas Review-Journal Editor Resigns Citing Adelson Ownership Of Newspaper

    Mike Hengel: "I think my resignation probably comes as a relief to the new owners."

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    CNN Money reported that Las Vegas Review-Journal editor Mike Hengel was offered and accepted a buyout and will step down as editor of Nevada's largest newspaper.

    Hengel's decision comes after the Review-Journal was purchased by an unnamed person later discovered to be top Republican donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. The purchase has concerned many of the reporters at the paper who feared a loss of editorial control in deference to the new owner. Prior to stepping down, Hengel had instructed reporters to begin working on identifying the long list of "perceived conflicts of interest" that were likely to surround the paper and their new owner.

    CNN Money's December 22 article reporting his resignation said Hengel "thought his relationship with the Adelson family would be 'adversarial' and that it was best to let them pick their own editor."

    Mike Hengel, the top editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is stepping aside, less than two weeks after the family of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson took control of the newspaper.

    One reporter said the newsroom was "stunned" by the announcement, which Hengel made on Tuesdayevening in the midst of a turbulent period for Nevada's biggest newspaper.

    Wednesday's edition will include a message from the Adelson family on the front page. It says "we pledge to publish a newspaper that is fair, unbiased and accurate." It describes plans for "new investments" and the establishment of an ombudsman.

    Retaining the trust of readers will be difficult for the paper, especially if other veteran journalists follow Hengel to the exit.

    A round of end-of-the-year buyouts were initiated before Adelson purchased the paper on December 10. Hengel was originally not eligible. But the eligibility rules were apparently changed for him.

    According to tweets and people who were present for the announcement, Hengel told his staffers that he did not ask for a buyout, but that he was offered one shortly after the change in ownership. He did not say who made the offer. But he said he thought his relationship with the Adelson family would be "adversarial" and that it was best to let them pick their own editor.

    "I think my resignation probably comes as a relief to the new owners, and it is in my best interest and those of my family," Hengel said, according to reporter Neal Morton.

    Hengel did not respond to a request for further comment.

    The owners' letter in Wednesday's paper said managers "will appoint an interim editor and will immediately begin a search for the next permanent Review-Journal editor."

    Hengel's departure comes at a time of widespread unease about what the new owners intend to do.

    Longtime Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith, who was once sued by Adelson, wrote over the weekend that "Adelson is precisely the wrong person to own this or any newspaper."

  • Four Reasons Why Sheldon Adelson's Reported Purchase Of The Las Vegas Review-Journal Is Troubling

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    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.

    Adelson also reportedly supported the anti-Muslim film Obsession.

    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.

    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.)