Casino mogul and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson laid out a litany of policy positions — pro-choice on abortion, in favor of eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants, supportive of “socialized” healthcare — that make him sound like America’s most committed liberal.
Adelson’s remarks to the Wall Street Journal may have taken some by surprise Wednesday, given that he dumped somewhere between $70 million and $150 million into (mostly losing) conservative candidates in the November election. (The exact amount may never be clear, in part since $20 million or more went to groups that do not disclose their donors.)
As Republican candidates, smarting over their losses, begin to retool their ideological stands — particularly softening on the question of rights for illegal immigrants — so, too, their biggest benefactor seems intent on showing he has a softer side.
“Look, I’m basically a social liberal,” Adelson told the Journal. “I know nobody will believe that.”
Adelson doesn’t have to run for office. The owner of casinos from Las Vegas to Macao doesn’t have to answer much to anyone. But like most powerful people, he doubtless worries about his public image and about being perceived only as the hard-liner who loathed President Obama and gave to Republicans largely out of self interest.
Adelson’s support of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney could be tied to many issues, notably the challenger’s hard-line pro-Israel rhetoric. The magnate also stood to benefit from Romney’s policy, continuing lower tax rates for the wealthiest Americans.
But in a September interview, Adelson also made clear another personal grudge he had, this one with Obama’s Justice Department. His Las Vegas Sands Corp. had been examined by federal investigators, looking for possible money laundering in Las Vegas, as well as potential violations of bribery laws linked to the company’s casinos in Asia.
He told Politico’s Mike Allen that, once he made clear his opposition to a second Obama term, he believed that re-election would mean “vilification of people that were against him.”
Looking to slip his cardboard caricature, Adelson told the Journal his personal experiences had shaped his views on social issues. His relationship with his Israeli-born wife, a physician, convinced him of the value of nationalized healthcare. The uber-capitalist endorsed Israel’s “cradle to grave” government-administered health system, but said he opposed Obamacare because “it’s making the [medical] decisions based upon money.”
If he elaborated, the Journal’s story didn’t say so.
Adelson betrays no dismay over the losses suffered by Romney and the other Republicans he backed. He told the newspaper that he had doubled his donations from 2008 to 2012 and might double them again for the next election.
"I'll spend that much and more," he said. "Let's cut any ambiguity."