The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The time Sheldon Adelson’s wife dropped her purse on a congressman

Casino magnate and major political contributor Sheldon Adelson waits with his wife Miriam for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber. Is this the moment of the purse drop? (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Placeholder while article actions load

(This post has been updated.)

Republican mega donor Sheldon Adelson is used to throwing money at politicians. But purses?

The casino magnate and his wife Miriam were in the House gallery for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress Tuesday when her bag fell and almost clocked Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Neb.).

She had slightly better aim than her husband, who was unsuccessful in knocking out Ashford’s campaign against incumbent Rep. Lee Terry in the 2014 general election. Adelson gave $5 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC that spent $35,000 in that race, according to’s Russ Choma.

Informed after the speech that it was Adelson’s wife’s bag that fell on him, Ashford joked to Omaha World-Herald’s Joseph Morton, “I wish I’d opened the purse. Do you think she carries cash?”

We reached out to Ashford’s office, which confirmed that the bag did hit the congressman on his shoulder and then fell at his feet. He joked to his spokesman, who we spoke to, that he might never have use of his left arm again. (Imagine that settlement.)

Ashford had no idea what kind of purse it was, but he described it as “reptilian of some kind,” his spokesman said.

And so it was. Around 6 p.m., a person close to the Adelsons sent the Loop an e-mail with more details. The bag in question was a purple alligator Hermes clutch. (Perhaps like this one?) She had rested it on the railing ledge for a moment and someone tapped her and as she turned she knocked it off.

“Security brought the purse back to her and she was very relieved to know that no one was hurt,” the Adelson friend wrote us. She wants to call or e-mail Ashford to apologize.

If Ashford had opened the clutch as he joked he would have been disappointed. There were business cards, Apple earphones, and lipstick. But no cash.

This gives a whole new meaning to power of the purse.