News & Politics

GOP Presidential Hopefuls 'Kiss the Ring' of Billionaire

Billionaire pro-Israel casino magnate Sheldon Adelson was the man Republicans tried to woo.

Billionaire and top GOP donor Sheldon Adelson.
Photo Credit: Bectrigger/Wikimedia Commons

The 2016 presidential elections are more than two years away, but the top Republican candidates are busy courting wealthy donors to back them.  Over the weekend, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Scott Walker--all GOP governors or former governors--attended the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Conference in Las Vegas.

They all had one idea in mind: woo Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate union buster, mega-Republican donor and right-wing Zionist whose main priority is Israel. Adelson pours a ton of cash into the RJC and bankrolled Newt Gingrich’s and Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign.

He also owns the Venetian casino and hotel in Las Vegas, which is where the conference took place.  

“Hey, listen, Sheldon, thanks for inviting me,” Ohio Governor Kasich said, in one of several blatant moves to pander to the billionaire.  

The speech that captured the most headlines was Christie’s--and it wasn’t for reasons the scandal-embroiled New Jersey governor likes.  As all the other candidates did, Christie stressed his devotion to Israel.  But he made a gaffe when he said, “I took a helicopter ride from the occupied territories across and just felt personally how extraordinary that was to understand, the military risk that Israel faces every day.”

The misstep was that Christie referred to the Palestinian West Bank as “occupied”--a term that is true.  But Adelson and others of his ilk reject referring to the West Bank as “occupied,” preferring instead to see it is a land that Israel has a right to settle and control.  

The spectacle of the GOP candidates lining up to woo Adelson was slammed by Matthew Dowd, a former strategist for President George W. Bush.  “I think it’s ridiculous that these candidates for president are trumping out to Las Vegas to kiss the ring of a billionaire casino owner, and they think that’s somehow going help them get elected president,” Dowd said on ABC.

In another development that speaks to the primacy of money in politics, the son of the founder of Ameritrade is courting donors to give to their group Ending Spending. Adelson is one donor already on board.


Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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