Although Adelson, 79, has said he will give $100 million to help Romney and quash President Obama’s “socialist-style” approach to the economy, he remains skeptical, believing that politicians don’t deliver on promises and can’t be trusted.
“Many people who give very significant donations to political campaigns come to me afterwards very frustrated that they don’t get what they wanted once the person is elected,” says Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, which Adelson has supported for years. “Sheldon doesn’t expect people to change. He’s very realistic about politics.”
Adelson — whose gambling operations span the globe from Las Vegas to casinos open or planned in Macau, Singapore and Spain — tells friends he finds the way U.S. elections are funded to be abhorrent, putting too much power in the hands of a wealthy few. So as one of those wealthy few, why would he pour more money into a campaign than 65 average Americans will earn in their combined lifetimes?
Adelson would not agree to an interview unless he could screen all questions in advance, a condition The Washington Post declined to meet. But more than 20 friends, critics, colleagues and beneficiaries portray a man with several motives for his massive donations to political, religious and medical causes.
He’s a scrappy fighter who defends what is his, a self-made man who held more than 50 jobs before striking gold with his Venetian casino on the Vegas Strip, and he has developed a powerful aversion to taxes and unions. He is the 12th-richest person in the nation, according to Forbes magazine, with a fortune valued at $21 billion. Under Obama, Adelson has achieved a larger increase in his wealth than anyone else in the country. In the past two decades, he has also undergone a political conversion, from a Massachusetts Democrat who considered Republicans to be the establishment that resisted newcomers like him, to a Nevada Republican who believes that his former party coddles the idle and has fallen captive to identity politics.
Adelson is driven by the idea of Israel as a muscular riposte to the Holocaust. Based on his experience as a Jewish kid who would get insulted and roughed up in a tough Boston neighborhood, Adelson believes Jewish Americans should back an Israel that puts security first and resists compromise with Arabs who do not accept its existence.