The Sheldon Adelson primary: Kissing the mogul’s ring

     

    It’s a good thing that what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas, because this weekend we learned anew how mogul-driven politics really works: The more money you have, the more speech you can buy – and the more speech you can buy, the more candidates will fly thousands of miles just to kiss your ring.

    Republicans call it “the Sheldon primary,” and there’s no better evidence of how warped and twisted our campaign process has become. Sheldon Adelson – net worth, roughly $40 billion – held court at his Venetian hotel and casino, hosting the four-day Republican Jewish Conference (where pro-Israel hawkishness is de rigeuer), and various White House aspirants jockeyed for first prize in obsequious genuflection.

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wanted Adelson to know that his son is named Matthew, which means “gift from God” in Hebrew; Ohio Gov. John Kasich wanted Adelson to know that he’d pushed for a Holocaust memorial at the Ohio capitol, and he acted like he was Adelson’s best buddy (“Sheldon and I…Hey, listen, Sheldon…”); New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in his speech, made the mistake of referring to Israel’s military presence on the West Bank as “the occupied territories” (that’s a no no for pro-Israel hawks like Adelson), and Christie was so mortified that he later apologized to Adelson in private.

    Indeed, since Adelson is fixated on foreign policy, the guests were at pains to show their foreign policy chops. This was actually a problem – since few of them have any such chops – but they did try to finesse it. Kasich told “Sheldon” that, when he was a congressman, he’d served a few years on the House Armed Services Committee (this was back in the ’90s, when his main work was on the House Budget Committee), and Walker boasted of his military experience as – I kid you not – “commander-in-chief of the Wisconsin National Guard.” (Sarah Palin tried that one in ’08.)

    Why all this abject groveling at the feet of an 80-year-old casino fat cat?

    Because, thanks to the five Republican high court appointees who gave us the Citizens United ruling, fat cats have more political clout than ever – none moreso than Adelson, who (along with his wife) personally spent $100 million during the 2012 Republican primaries and general election. No other mogul, in the history of presidential politics, has ever spent so lavishly. (This is where trolls say, “Butwhatabout George Soros?!” Answer: During the ’12 cycle, lefty mogul Soros reportedly spent $5.1 million.)

    Adelson is pledging a similar nine-figure Republican investment in 2016, and if he were a normal rich person, we’d probably think he was nuts. After all, his recent $100 million was almost entirely wasted. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never has one person expended so much for so little. Adelson financed a super PAC to support Newt Gingrich (loser), he later helped finance a super PAC for Mitt Romney (loser), and he sent huge amounts to the super PAC sponsored by Karl Rove (most of whose candidates were losers).

    But hey, for a guy like Adelson, $100 million is chump change – only 1/400th of his current fortune. Which is why, after he rolled snake eyes in 2012, he shrugged it off by saying, “That’s how you spend money. Either that, or become a Jewish husband.” (Oh, those crazy free-spending Jewish gals.)

    So here he is again, with everybody bowing and scraping. How nice for him that he can flex so much muscle. As even Gingrich said the other day, we now have “an election process that radically favors billionaires and is discriminating against the middle class.” For that, we can thank John Roberts and his four allies – the judicial arm of the one percenters. Post-Citizens United, fat cats and special interests are free to spend unlimited amounts on behalf of their favorite candidates; the deeper the pockets, the broader the parameters of free speech.

    But the mogul is vowing to spend very responsibly; as Adelson friend Victor Chaltiel told the press the other day, “He doesn’t want a crazy extremist to be the nominee. He wants someone who has the chance the win the election, who is reasonable in his positions, who has convictions but is not totally crazy.” OK, that probably rules out Ted Cruz. And that likely means no Adelson moolah for Rand Paul, because hawkish Republicans view him as an isolationist. Notably, Rand Paul did not trek to Vegas.

    Here’s the problem, though: Paul has been visibly gearing up for 2016, seeding the grassroots nationwide. If he ultimately threatens the winner of “the Sheldon primary,” rest assured that some Adelson-financed super PAC will hammer Paul with relentless negative ads – whereby Paul will respond in kind. In other words, we might see a reprise of what soured the GOP’s prospects in 2012, when Adelson’s pro-Newt ads relentlessly hammered Romney (especially the Adelson-financed “King of Bain” film) and wound up damaging the future nominee, to the Obama camp’s delight.

    One donor, warping the entire process. Republicans rushing anew to kiss his ring had better be careful what they wish for.

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    Check out this news story today:

    Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported on Monday, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.

    The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.

    The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found.

    Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said. And the worst is yet to come, the scientists said…

    Or as they say in Trollville – quoting their mayor, Alfred E. Neuman – “What, me worry?”

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    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

     

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