Monday, January 9, 2012

AIPAC Invests in Mitt's Stalking Horse

from the FT
Sheldon Adelson likes a fight. The billionaire Republican donor transformed Las Vegas with the construction of a vast conference centre at his Venetian casino to the great chagrin of his rivals, such as Steve Wynn. He also defied convention when he helped develop Macao as a gaming destination, building casinos that have eclipsed anything ever constructed in Sin City.

Now he hopes to transform the Republican primary race with a $5m donation to a super-political action committee that is backing Newt Gingrich. The “Winning Our Future” super-Pac has acquired a controversial film that portrays Mitt Romney, the leading Republican candidate, as a predatory capitalist and destroyer of jobs.

The film forms the basis for a new series of commercials to run in South Carolina ahead of its primary on January 21 and is more evidence that the latest stage of an already bitter campaign has entered an increasingly acrimonious phase. With a large personal fortune and campaign war chest, Mr Romney has more money to spend than his rivals: super-Pacs backing Mr Romney were instrumental in eroding support for Mr Gingrich in Iowa.

But with Mr Adelson in his corner, Mr Gingrich, the former speaker of the house, has a deep-pocketed supporter intent on helping him reverse the poll declines that saw him lose his front-runner status.

The son of a Lithuanian immigrant – and Boston cab driver – Mr Adelson’s first job was selling newspapers on street corners: he and his friends often suffered at the hands of Irish youths. But he had a sharp entrepreneurial streak and started a vending machine business before training to become a court reporter.

He would make his fortune in travel and tourism and realised early on that there was money to be made in leisure when he started a charter tours business. He became a millionaire when he created the Comdex computer trade show. But it was his epiphany that Las Vegas could become the natural home for business conventions that set him on the path to becoming one of the world’s richest men.

As chairman of Las Vegas Sands, he runs one of the world’s biggest gaming companies: it invested in Macao when other US gaming groups faltered and was handsomely rewarded when the enclave became the world’s biggest casino market thanks to the fervour – and willingness to spend – of Chinese gamblers.

He weathered a severe storm in 2008 when the financial crisis and consumer downturn caused the near collapse of several large casino groups. He put $475m of his family’s money into Sands but the move paid off: Sands shares have since rebounded.

A vocal supporter of Israel and a generous philanthropist, he has poured millions into Jewish causes and also owns a stake in the Israel Hayom newspaper.

A close ally of Benjamin Netanyahu, he has opposed a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and has expressed deep concerns about moves by Iran to develop its uranium enrichment programme. He also recently backed Mr Gingrich’s controversial comments about Palestinians being “an invented people”.

“Read the history of those who call themselves ‘Palestinians’,” he told an audience in Israel recently, “and you will hear why [Newt] Gingrich called them an ‘invented people’. There are a number of Palestinians who will recognise the truth of this statement.”

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