Forbes reported last week that billionaire Sheldon Adelson has donated $10 million to Restore Our Future, the leading Super PAC subsidizing Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. According to a source close to Adelson, further donations will be “limitless.”
Adelson ranks among the world’s self-made billionaires. He was born in 1934 to Jewish-Ukrainian immigrants and grew up in the working-class Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. As a young adult, Adelson dropped out of the City College of New York before working his way up to mortgage broker, investment adviser, and financial consultant. Adelson made his fortune and currently works as chairman of the board and principal owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., the parent company of the Sands, The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas, and the Venetian Macao Limited in China. As of March, the casino mogul’s fortune amounted to $24.9 billion, making him the 14th richest man on Earth.
Sheldon Adelson didn’t always support Mitt Romney’s candidacy. During the Republican primary, Adelson and his wife, Miriam, provided a large portion of the financial fuel for Newt Gingrich's campaign. Before he dropped out of the race, the Adelsons had contributed over $20 million to Winning Our Future, a Super PAC endorsing Newt Gingrich — that is, around $17,355 per delegate, and $8.30 for each one of Gingrich’s 2.395 million voters.
For someone like Sheldon Adelson, a million dollars is pocket change, and more than $20 million wasted is not enough to dissuade him from pouring in potentially endless amounts of money to ensure that Barack Obama is not re-elected.
Adelson’s donation to the Romney campaign is a disturbing indication of the potential for wealthy people to influence the electoral process. Super PACs that make large corporate or personal contributions like Adelson’s possible can raise unlimited sums of money from businesses, associations, unions, and wealthy individuals. Though they are barred from coordinating directly with political parties or candidates, these fund accumulating machines can direct their money towards political advertisements that advocate for or against particular politicians. Despite the legal limits, the most influential Super PACs almost always support individual candidates, and are virtually never non-partisan. They give corporations, special interest groups and the rich even more power to shape media coverage, determine the outcome of elections, and overshadow the influence of average Americans’ contributions to their preferred political candidates.
The recipient of Sheldon Adelson’s donation, Restore Our Future has already spent more than $46.5 million on the 2012 presidential election – about 38% of the total Super PAC funds spent this year. Created by three former Mitt Romney campaign staffers, Restore Our Future has spent north of $21 million campaigning against Rick Santorum, about $18.5 million targeting Newt Gingrich, and more than $20 thousand opposing Barack Obama – a sum that, with the help of Sheldon Adelson’s ongoing gifts, will rise indefinitely.