Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson spent almost a hundred million dollars in the last presidential election, much of it to help Newt Gingrich, but he’s now very busy funding politicians at the state level as well in order to achieve his goal of banning all online gambling in the United States.
But less noted at the time was Adelson’s largesse in Florida, where he contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to political committees supportive of Gov. Rick Scott (R). Adelson also gave $2 million to the Republican Governors Association and directed millions more to candidates for attorney general and other state-level offices across the country.
Many of the beneficiaries of Adelson’s state donations are now siding with the billionaire as he seeks to outlaw a practice he views as a threat to the economic health of the casino industry on which he built his fortune.
Scott, who is facing a competitive reelection campaign this year, sent a letter late last month to congressional leaders at Adelson’s request calling on lawmakers to prevent states from legalizing Internet betting, saying the practice lets gambling “invade the homes of every American family, and be piped in to our dens, living rooms, workplaces and even our kids bedrooms and dorm rooms.”
The efforts by Adelson, who has vowed to play a big role in boosting another Republican for the White House in 2016, reveal the unusual role being played by the GOP mega-donor as he balances a largely conservative ideological agenda with his business interests. In doing so, he has triggered what may become one of the costliest lobbying battles of the year, in Washington and state capitals, as he combats rival gambling companies favoring a move to the Internet…
The bipartisan coalition is designed to help Adelson, who controls Las Vegas Sands Corp., resist a push by rivals such as MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment to sell state legislators and governors on the expansion of gambling online as a potentially lucrative source of tax revenue. Adelson and his team are shaping an aggressive counteroffensive, with television ads and high-priced lobbyists, to argue that Web-based gambling would hurt children, invite criminal activity and produce little actual revenue for the states.
Adelson is “playing three levels of chess,” Lehane said in an e-mail, including “mapping the terrain to determine who are the key players; assembling the right team that is purple in terms of overall blend; and focused on the disciplined bi-partisan/non-partisan message of kids safety.”
Oh yes, the age-old excuse for nearly every authoritarian policy — “protect the children!”