When the Adelsons were in Israel in December, to attend a Hanukkah ceremony for the program, Sheldon praised controversial comments made by Gingrich last month on the Jewish Channel, a U.S. cable network.
“Read the history of those who call themselves Palestinians, and you will hear why Gingrich said recently that the Palestinians are an invented people,” Adelson was quoted as saying by the Web site of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
Sheldon Adelson credits then-Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), now retired, with introducing the Adelsons to Gingrich at the Capitol, though Linder does not recall being the matchmaker. The encounter came just before passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act. Though the act had bipartisan support, presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have declined to implement it, deeming it an infringement on the president’s sole constitutional authority to conduct foreign affairs.
Adelson has staunchly defended Gingrich to fellow Jews. When Jewish Week wrote a story in May headlined, “Will Gingrich Bomb With Jewish Republicans?” Adelson called up a columnist at the paper to complain. “There is not a better advocate for Israel,” Adelson told the columnist.
If Israel first brought brought them together, the relationship was sealed during a crisis for Adelson, said George Harris, who was a consultant for Adelson at the time and now is co-finance chairman of Gingrich’s campaign.
A few years after the embassy vote, Harris arranged for Adelson to meet with Gingrich when he was traveling to Nevada for a fundraiser.
A poor cab driver’s son born to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants living in Dorchester, Mass., Adelson rose from being a mortgage broker to making hundreds of millions of dollars by selling Comdex, the computer trade show in Las Vegas. He then purchased the old Sands hotel, once the base of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack, and demolished it in 1996. He broke ground a year later to replace it with an opulent $1.5 billion resort, the 4,000-room Venetian, now the sixth-largest hotel in the world.
Culinary unions were trying to pressure Adelson into accepting a union shop. Harris remembers union protesters picketing in front of the Venetian’s preview center with signs saying that if Adelson didn’t agree to a contract, “We will wail at your Wailing Wall.”
Harris thought a visit with the House speaker would boost Adelson’s spirits and raise his stature during the labor dispute. After Gingrich attended fundraising events, the Adelsons and Gingrich had dinner, he said.
“From my perspective, it was all about bringing more national clout to Sheldon,” Harris said. “They hit it off. These are two guys who spent the majority of their day trying to think of how to make America great.”