The Shame of American Politics: GOP Presidential Hopefuls now Trek to Las Vegas seeking Adelson Blessing

(By Juan Cole)

A series of pro-corporation Supreme Court decisions and the latter’s disingenuous equation of money with speech, including “Citizens United”, have turned the United States from a democracy to a plutocracy. It is not even a transparent plutocracy, since black money (of unknown provenance) has been allowed by SCOTUS to flood into elections. These developments are not only deadly to democracy, they threaten US security. It is increasingly difficult to exclude foreign money from US political donations. We not only come to be ruled by the billionaires, but even by foreign billionaires with foreign rather than American interests at heart.

The most frightening scenario is for corrupt money to dictate our politics. Casinos may no longer be mobbed up the way they were in the 1950s and 1960s, but they [pdf] are still significantly implicated in government corruption.

The perniciousness of this growing plutocracy was on full display on Saturday, as GOP governors Scott Walker, Chris Christie and John Kasich trekked off to Las Vegas in an attempt to attract hundreds of millions in campaign donations from sleazy casino lord Sheldon Adelson. Since Adelson is allegedly worth $37 billion, he could fund the Republican side of a presidential election (which costs $1 billion) all by himself. In the last presidential election he is said to have donated $100 million.

There is no way to mince words here. These practices are absolutely disgusting.

The problems with having one man have $37 billion and with his ability to buy candidates their elections are that any one man might be extremely eccentric. What if he wanted to start the Iraq War up again? Do we have to do it?

The case of Adelson exhibits all these issues of corruption and eccentricity. Much of his current fortune is recent and derives from the Macao casino, and Adelson has admitted to “likely” breaking Federal rules against using bribes to do business in other countries. (A reference to allegations that his company was involved in rewarding legislators of the Chinese Communist Party for supporting his Macao project.) There was a time when this admission alone would put the donor off limits for mainstream politicians.

Adelson has kooky political ideas. He is a determined union-buster.

He actually mused in public about nuking Iran:

“You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say ‘OK, let it go’and so there’s an atomic weapon goes over, ballistic missiles in the middle of the desert that doesn’t hurt a soul, maybe a couple of rattlesnakes and scorpions or whatever”

He was also a proponent of the Iraq War and of “staying the course” (staying in Iraq forever)?

Adelson is a big backer of Israeli far rightwing PM Binyamin Netanyahu and has said that granting Palestinians their own state is akin to Russian roulette. He owns the right wing Israeli newspaper Israel Ha-Yawm .

What if a billionaire from a religious cult (other than the Likud Party I mean) was allowed to buy our politics, say a Moonie? What implications would that have for our policy toward North Korea?

Adelson has a right to vote and advocate for his candidates. But the idea that he and his like should choose the next president is too awful to contemplate. One person, one vote isn’t one person, $100 million worth of votes. That isn’t democracy…


Bloomberg: “2016: Who’s Kissing the Ring of Sheldon Adelson?”

24 Responses

  1. Evidently Christie offended Adelson with references to the occupied territories, so you have to give him some credit.

    • Well, I’d give him credit, except that
      1. The use of the term “occupied territories” was not actually a deliberate provocation, and
      2. He groveled before The Great Adelson immediately after learning of his “mistake.”

  2. Once Obama reneged on his 2008 promise to use federal financing for his campaign and instead went hat in hand and sold his soul to Wall Street for “contributions”, and the stupid progressives still voted for him ( I was one of them), it was game over. Now every politician is free to sell himself (and his district, state, and/or country) to the highest bidder and still get away with it.

    • Jack: I believe you overlooked the fact that the system was corrupt long before Obama was born, never mind running for president. It’s a good bet that Obama was (and is) a front man for others, most likely the Daley machine or some other group in Chicago. He wasn’t just some guy with lofty ideals who walked in off the street and into the Boston Convention Center and gave a rousing speech that appeared so good after listening to Dubya for eight years. Obama got on that stage because he was promoted by some oligarchic faction in the Democratic Party. And, we have to give them credit. Who would have thought a black man in our still very-much-racist society could have been elected president?

  3. Proposition: There is no such entity as “America” any more, if there ever was. Itz the US Empire.

    And Suggestion: Stop referring to kleptocratic money transfers to politicians and “public people” as “contributios” or “donations.” These are bribes, and fees for service, and theft of seeming legitimacy, impure and unsimple.

  4. The unsaid premise here and in all broadsides against campaign finance is that voters are stupid. Money just buys candidates and the rubes of the voting public have no ability to discriminate whether candidates positions match their own in the face of ads and campaign donations. I don’t thmk this is really true Juan, and it actually betrays a lack of faith in democracy rather than a concern for it.

    • “The unsaid premise here and in all broadsides against campaign finance is that voters are stupid”

      No, not “stupid”, just “deprived of choice”.

      After all, three – count ’em, three – front-running republican candidates for President all went to Las Vegas and essentially indulged in a pitching session for the dubious affections of a right-wing billionaire who mind just Isn’t All There.

      So when it comes time for the registered Republican voter to start pickin’ ‘n’ choosin’ in those primaries then what sort of candidate will they have to pick from?

      Well, there’s the fat guy who mouths right-wing kookiness.
      Or there’s the skinny guy who does likewise.
      Or there’s That Other Guy who sounds just like the first two.

      They are all of ’em fully paid up mouthpieces of that ultra-whacky billionaire who has paid for them to get to those primaries, and Those Are The Only Choices The Voting Public Have To Choose From.

    • Sadly, the people are not all so well informed or cautious of their sources, that the mass media cannot readily deceive them with the propaganda of their backers. More confidence is due in the democracy of universities than that of the general public under mass media ontrolled by money. The power of ignorance, and the triumph of ignorance engineering, is everywhere evident in our politics, and our foreign and domestic policy. Democracy cannot represent the better judgment of the people without a press and elections free of economic influence, because only then can the voice of its moral and educated element be heard.

  5. The likes of Adelson, the Koch brothers and their ilk with incomprehensible sums of money to spend on political corruption are only part of the problem. Another part of the equation that spells a grim future for the United States and those nations in its orbit includes their enablers; that is, the supreme and lesser courts, Congress, the White House, and the mainstream/fawning corporate media. Completing this concoction for decline and fall of the American empire are the people who go along with the plutocrats and their hatchet men and women. Just like the millions of soldiers who marched off to the “Great War,” the “war to end all wars” the people will be the ones to pay dearly for the follies being created in the present.

  6. His money was on Gingrich and fueled the smear campaign against Romney in the primaries. When Romney won the nomination he doubled down on Romney, trying to undo the damage he caused himself. A wise old lady once told me the secret of winning every hand in gambling, this gaming mogul will do well to heed.

    • I’m curious about your “old lady” advice. Was it, perhaps, to spread your bets around (hedge)…or to stay out of the game altogether?

      • A well known fact in gambling is, if you are not a loser, you are considered a winner, so stay out of the game it was.

  7. How about loving the American people supporting our veterans not using them kicking to the streets likes worn out slaves. All the hard working taxes Americans work for. Oh I forgot slaves have no say so on loving your Nation before any other. Americans are sick of it to only time will tell those who will see when USA runs out of money the people get angry.

  8. When applying for an interview with Adelson, it is ‘alleged’ that potential candidates are sent a form with three questions which must be answered correctly before they are considered for an interview;

    1] Do you put Israel’s interests first
    2] Do you put Israel’s interests second
    3] Do you put Israel’s interests third

    America land of the brave and the free!

  9. The years ahead are likely to be filled with confrontations with Russia under the messianic Putin, and these could easily spiral out of control towards nuclear war. Do we really want Sheldon Adelson dictating what sort of man the Republicans are offering to deal with Putin?
    Another sick aspect of American politics. No good deed will go unpunished, as in the electoral beating Democrats are taking because they brought about a vast and necessary enhancement of the social safety net, the ACA.

  10. The tough guy who loves to intimidate with his boisterous behavior acts like a lamb in front of Adelson. Despicable.

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