$10m on Gingrich - Sheldon Adelson's worst gamble?

Jan 30, 2012

Self-styled 'richest Jew in the world' has poured $10m into PAC supporting the faltering candidate

AS MITT ROMNEY goes into tomorrow’s Republican primary in Florida the clear favourite ahead of Newt Gingrich – a poll for NBC puts him 15 points clear – one man left scratching his head is the 78-year-old billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Adelson is the Las Vegas casino owner who reinvigorated Gingrich's campaign this month by bankrolling it to the tune of more than $10 million.

It looked to be working, with Gingrich scoring a stunning win in South Carolina. But in recent days, the former House speaker has been slipping. As rich as he is, Adelson - ranked by Forbes as the eighth richest man in the US with a fortune of $21.5 billion – could be forgiven for wondering if this was a gamble worth taking.

Adelson came to the rescue when it looked as though the wheels had come off Gingrich’s campaign. He'd just polled fourth in the New Hampshire primary with less than 10 per cent, and the momentum for a right-wing challenger to Mitt Romney lay firmly with Rick Santorum.

Then Adelson stepped in, pledging $5 million up-front to a political action committee (PAC) called Winning Our Future. The PAC poured money into a series of bloodcurdling attack advertisements against Romney which accused him of destroying US jobs through his work for the private equity firm Bain Capital.

The ads hit their target perfectly, helping Gingrich to a crushing victory over the frontrunner Romney in the South Carolina primary, and setting up what only days ago looked to be a battle royale between the pair in tomorrow's Florida primary. 

The son of a Boston cab driver, Adelson calls himself "the richest Jew in the world" and his political interests are firmly in the Zionist camp - becoming more so since his second marriage to Miriam in 1991. As Alexander Cockburn wrote here recently, Adelson is a passionate opponent of an independent Palestine, which goes some way to explaining Gingrich's remarks in a candidates' debate that the Palestinians are an "invented" people.

The billionaire denies using his money to influence the policy of a future Republican administration, maintaining instead that his "motivation for helping Newt is simple and should not be mistaken for anything other than the fact that [I] hold [my] friendship with him very dear and [am] doing what I can as a private citizen to support his candidacy", he told The Observer.

However, he has pledged large sums of money - rumoured to be $60 million - to a charity called Taglit-Birthright, which takes Jewish Americans to their 'homeland' of Israel. He believes that the US embassy in Israel should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an inflammatory gesture that Gingrich has nonetheless said he would make early on in his administration.

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