The death of Sheldon Adelson, 87, this week from complications related to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma marks the end of a milestone in the history of Jewish charitable history. Adelson was a contributor to both right-wing nationalistic causes in the U.S. and Israel, accompanied by extreme generosity to philanthropic institutions.
There is no doubt that Adelson was a complicated, brilliant, crass businessman. He was one who did not tolerate dissent or variations from his rules and world view. In the process, he worked tirelessly to break unions in Las Vegas, crush liberal political dissent, and readily worked with dark, secretive funds and lawyers to funnel as much money, above and under the table, to his preferred right-wing nationalist groups and political candidates.
Adelson was also an indispensable leader to the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC). As a group and with Adelson individually, they were possibly the nation’s largest single contributor to Trump and his increasingly right-wing national Christian Tea Party Republican Party. They funneled hundreds of millions to Trump, even as he strengthened relationships and messages with an increasingly right-wing, nationalist, and ultimately violent groups.
Huge RJC Donations Track the Rise in Anti-Semitic Incidents
During the Trump administration (2016-2020), and at a time when RJC contributions were flowing at a record pace, the U.S. recorded 2,100 anti-Semitic attacks in 2019, which was the highest level of antisemitic incidents since the ADL started tracking them in 1979, according to the ADL (the Anti-Defamation League).
Many people interested in contemporary Jewish events see the connection between these huge contributions from the RJC and the thousands of anti-Semitic tweets, speeches, references, cartoons, and ultimately attacks that plagued American Jews during the Trump presidency. Plus, there were also countless references to Jewish money, Soros, the Rothschilds, etc., made by Republican political candidates, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
So, with the death of Sheldon Adelson, the RJC has to be held accountable for its contributions to a failed President Trump and the Tea Party Republicans who supported him.
The other question is whether Miriam Adelson will continue to contribute to right-wing Trump-related causes.
The impending split in the Republican Party means Miriam Adelson will be forced with the bad choice of supporting Trump’s white-supremacist violent faction, where she has significant clout, or returning to the traditional Republican fold where her right-wing agenda would be curtailed.
Already, the RJC has announced it will work with the new Biden administration on pro-Israel, anti-Iranian policies while also presumably pushing its old pre-Trump Republican agenda of favorable low taxes for the wealthy and corporations, anti-regulation, and reducing funding for social programs.
Or, Miriam Adelson could take follow the lesson from MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, who gave away $4.2 billion from her divorce settlement in the past four months. That is Miriam’s big question, but she may be too far into the U.S. white nationalist sphere for her to break out and return to the traditional old Republican Party mainstream if it ever materializes again.
Here are the most significant contributions—positive and negative—that the Adelson fortune made during Sheldon Adelson’s lifetime.
“Twice-impeached President Donald Trump was enabled with a total of almost a quarter billion dollars in campaign contributions from 134 of America’s billionaires during his short, violent political career, more than half of it from recently deceased casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Those are among the findings of a new analysis from Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), which has in recent months been highlighting the outsized rewards and influence of the billionaire class.” Source: Americans for Tax Fairness
“In the 2020 election, the Adelson’s set a new record for political gifts from individuals, flooding the Trump campaign, related accounts, and many lesser Republican campaigns with a total of $172.7m, according to the campaign finance site Open Secrets.
The Adelsons were the top donors in every major election cycle going back a decade except for 2016, and their lifetime political giving amounted to about half a billion dollars, Open Secrets said.” Source: The Guardian
“Billionaire Republican donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson have pumped $500,000 into a defense fund set up to help Donald Trump’s aides cover their legal costs associated with Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust was set up last year to help campaign aides caught up in the Mueller investigation pay for costly legal bills. The Adelsons each contributed $250,000 to the fund on Oct. 1, Politico reports and were the only people who gave money to the fund from October to the end of 2018. The new disclosure, filed Thursday, shows the fund paid out more than half a million dollars to law firms between October and December.” Source: The Daily Beast
“According to Open Secrets, a nonprofit website that tracks campaign contributions, he and Miriam, his second wife, gave $83 million to Republicans in the 2016 election cycle.” Source: Washington Post
“Mr. Adelson also gave generously to political causes unrelated to Israel — to campaigns against marijuana legalization, for instance, and to the fight against Internet wagering and online poker, which many in his industry viewed as an effort to safeguard his bricks-and-mortar casino empire in the guise of moral indignation.” Source: Washington Post
“The U.S. government charged Las Vegas Sands with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and in 2016 and 2017, the company paid more than $15 million in civil and criminal penalties.” Source: Washington Post
“A fund created to offset legal expenses associated with the Russia investigations paid over $150,000 in 2018 to cover legal expenses incurred by Stephen Miller, Dan Scavino, and Avi Berkowitz, according to documents obtained by CREW.” Source: CREW
Regarding this same dark money fund, CREW said: “For example, the New York
Times reported that Sheldon Adelson, who gave the Patriot Fund $250,000, “has used his access to push the president to” take certain actions in the Middle East “according to people familiar with their discussions.” Likewise, ProPublica reported that President Trump raised an issue regarding Adelson’s bid to build a casino in Japan with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This reporting suggests that Adelson may meet the definition of “prohibited source” under OGE’s regulations.” Source: CREW
A study of “dark money” political fund donors by CREW found that the largest contributors to: “Americans for Job Security (AJS) of its donors from 2010 through 2012, including major contributions from Peter Thiel, Richard and Helen DeVos, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, and Robert McNair, as well as contributions from Trump appointees like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former SBA Administrator Linda McMahon and former-Labor Secretary nominee Andy Puzder.” Source: CRE
Through the Adelson Foundation, the Adelsons made many noteworthy donations. These include:
A $50 million to Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Educational Campus, another $67 million in total was donated to their Medical Research Foundation, and $33 million to the Birthright Israel Foundation, and $13 million toward paying for the promotional trips to Israel, Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights that the nonprofit organizes for young Jewish people.
“In addition, the couple has pledged $3 million to Hebrew SeniorLife for housing facilities and a program to bring together older people and elementary-school students for education programs; $2 million to Gateways: Access to Jewish Education for programs for children with special needs; and $1 million to the Chelsea Jewish Foundation for specialized housing for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis. Those pledges will be paid over five years, and since 2007, the Adelson Family Foundation has made contributions totaling $140 million to Birthright Israel, which finances Jewish youth trips to Israel.
The Adelson Foundation gives $200 million annually to Jewish and Israeli causes, the largest by far of any existing private foundation with that aim.” Source: Wikipedia
“He gave more than $65 million to Israeli universities and think tanks, $25 million to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, and hundreds of millions to educational and cultural exchange programs.” Source Washington Post