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June 05, 2014 5:11 PM The Money To Play the Long Game

By Ed Kilgore

Sometimes asking a question is nearly as important as answering it. That was my reaction to a Sarah Posner column at Religious Dispatches with the title: “Sheldon Adelson’s Long Game.”

She then notes several data points for Adelson’s strategy in using his money in politics and quasi-politics: aside from his more famous forays into electoral politics, he seems focused on playing commissar about the ideologically-freighted terminology used by pols (especially Republicans) about Middle Eastern issues (viz. the famous “apology” Chris Christie felt constrained to offer him after using the phrase “Occupied Territories” at an Adelson-sponsored event). He’s also engaged heavily in trying to shape American Jewish religious, cultural and political attitudes. And he’s a Big Dog in Israeli politics, too.

But the important thing to keep in mind that Adelson’s astonishing wealth (an estimated net worth of $40 billion) and an increasingly deregulated system for spending it means that in politics he is in a position to play the short game, the long game, the medium game and all sorts of variations and hedges on all sorts of playing fields. Political observers were shocked by the amount of money (roughly $20 million) he (and his wife) “wasted” on Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign. That was sofa-cushion money for Adelson; Newt’s Super-PAC was, in fact, only the third-ranking beneficiary of Adelson money in the 2012 cycle (he gave a reported $30 million to Romney’s Super-PAC, and another $23 million to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads.

I wasn’t kidding when I compared Adelson to the legendary Honey Badger recently; he really does have the money to do what he wants in and near politics, and it’s no good evaluating his “moves” the way you would people with mere ten-digit fortunes. Kudos to Posner for trying to figure out what he’s really up to, but he’s probably laughing at all of us who struggle to comprehend his wealth and the power that comes with it.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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