According to a Politico report, casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson is preparing to donate an astonishing $20 million to help Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign. The donation, which is not even in the same stratosphere as the $2,500 legal limit for direct campaign contributions, would be made to a pro-Gingrich “super PAC” which can legally accept unlimited funds.
Although Adelson’s spokesman told Politico that “there’s no truth to any speculation that Mr. Adelson has made a commitment to either contribute or raise this amount of money,” sources with direct knowledge of the planned $20 million donation told Politico that Adelson planned to cut a check to a super PAC as early as this week. It is still unknown which of the several pro-Gingrich groups would receive the money.
Such a donation could have a dramatic impact on the race; as Politico points out,
A major contribution from Adelson would enable the recipient group to start airing ads in Iowa to counter a week-long anti-Gingrich on-air assault that is already taking a toll on his frontrunner status in the Hawkeye State, according to private and public polling.
Long term, support from the massively wealthy Adelson would be critical for Gingrich, who lags behind his primary competitor Mitt Romney in fundraising. It would allow Gingrich to greatly increase his ad buying, and would also send a powerful signal to other potential donors that Gingrich’s surge will not be temporary like those of previous front-runners Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain.
A huge donation from Adelson — who is currently the 8th wealthiest American with a net worth of $21.5 billion — would be consistent with his history of active political involvement. Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV) — a former employee of Adelson’s — told The New Yorker in 2008 that Adelson “seeks to dominate politics and public policy through the raw power of money.”
Specifically, Adelson funnels money to Republican causes. According to Politico, he donated $7.7 million to Gingrich’s political group, American Solutions for Winning the Future. The New Yorker profile notes that Adelson qualified as a Bush Pioneer (a title given to those who gathered at least $100,000 for George W. Bush’s presidential campaign,) co-founded conservative super PAC Freedom’s Watch, and frequently underwrites Congressional visits to Israel (although he only pays for Republicans.)
The huge donation also raises renewed questions about the ethics of Gingrich’s candidacy. For a candidate who’s been repeatedly accused of “influence peddling” and corruption, accepting $20 million from one man who’s been noted for trying to dominate politicians through donations may send the wrong message to voters.