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Puppetmasters: Sheldon Adelson’s Massive Political Influence

Puppetmasters: Sheldon Adelson’s Massive Political Influence

Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino owner, has spent millions in support of political campaigns.  

As a college dropout, the 83-year-old conservative is the chairman and CEO of the largest casino company in the U.S., Las Vegas Sands. Adelson grew up in a low-income family in a neighborhood of Boston. He started his first business at 12, where he started selling newspapers. Over his career, he has started almost 50 businesses and today, he is in the top 20 of the wealthiest people in the world.  

Although he is a lifelong donor and philanthropist, he is often criticized for using his billions to make an impact in the political sphere.  

Adelson spent an estimated $150 million in political efforts against Obama and to help get the GOP control of Congress. He also donated $25 million in support of President Donald Trump, even though he originally pledged to donate $100 million. 

“Adelson has used his fortune to reshape right-wing politics in both America and Israel, establishing himself as a GOP kingmaker in the post-Citizens United era. In December, he backed a secretive $140 million purchase of the Review-Journal, putting Nevada’s largest paper in the hands of its richest resident and a fixture of its biggest industry, and increasing his influence on Nevada’s early presidential caucuses,” writes Mother Jones.

He has used his influence in the political world to lead a campaign against internet gaming.

“I am in favor of gambling,” said Adelson. “But I am not in favor of exploiting the world’s most vulnerable people.”

With the help of Republicans Rick Scott of Florida and Rick Perry of Texas, both who have received donations from Adelson, he made the case that having casinos on cellphones is dangerous and all online gaming should be banned. Several argue that his intentions, in this case in particular, were self-serving.

Adelson has also been amidst another controversy in the last few years.  

“Las Vegas Sands paid a combined $16 million in 2016 and 2017 to settle charges that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. According to the Department of Justice, the company “willfully failed to implement internal accounting controls” to ensure the legitimacy of payments to a consultant who helped drum up business in China and Macau,” writes Forbes.

But Adelson has made back the $16 million and then some. In June, his net worth spiked by $1.7 billion to $34.9 billion after the shares of Las Vegas Sands rose 7%. He owns over 50% of the Las Vegas Sands’ shares. This comes shortly after he invested $10 billion to build a series of casinos in Macau, China.  

This means he has even more disposable income to contribute to different political campaigns.

Author’s note: Adelson has almost as much influence as he does money. Whether his intentions are good or self-serving, he has a tremendous amount of political power. That much power in the hands of a single person can be corruptive.

Editor’s note: Once in my Agency days, an analyst said that in any country, about 50 people wield all of the power. I asked him who those were in the U.S. and he quickly stuttered and stammered that it was not the case in the U.S.  Gives you some pause, doesn’t it?  The Puppetmasters series is our attempt to let our readers know who wields power. Perhaps there are more than 50, but the power is certainly wielded.


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