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Donor profile: Sheldon Adelson

Quick stats on the biggest financial backers of Election 2012

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 Updated:

Ranking: 1

Total contributions to super PACs: $93.3 million*

  • $20 million to Restore Our Future (pro-Mitt Romney), half of which is from his wife, Miriam Adelson
  • $23 million to American Crossroads (pro-Republican), half of which is from his wife
  • $16.5 million to Winning Our Future (pro-Newt Gingrich), including $7.5 million from his wife and $1.5 million from other family members
  • $5 million to Congressional Leadership Fund (pro-Republican), half of which is from his wife
  • $5 million to YG Action Fund (pro-Republican), half of which is from his wife
  • $4 million to Independence Virginia PAC (pro-George Allen)
  • $2 million to Freedom PAC (pro-Connie Mack; pro-Allen West)
  • $2 million to Republican Jewish Coalition Victory Fund (pro-Republican), half of which is from his wife
  • $1.15 million to Ending Spending Action Fund (pro-Republican), of which $575,000 is from his wife
  • $1 million to Treasure Coast Jobs Coalition (pro-Allen West), half of which is from his wife
  • $1 million to Patriot Prosperity PAC (pro-Joe Kyrillos; pro-Shmuley Boteach), half of which is from his wife
  • $1 million to Hardworking Americans Committee (pro-Peter Hoekstra; pro-Mitt Romney)
  • $500,000 to America 360 Committee (pro-Scott Brown), half of which is from his wife
  • $380,000 to Hispanic Leadership Fund Action (pro-Mitt Romney)
  • $250,000 to Conservative Renewal (pro-David Dewhurst)
  • $250,000 to Texas Conservatives Fund (pro-David Dewhurst)
  • $250,000 to JAN PAC (pro-Republican), half of which is from his wife

Notable federal hard money and 527 contributions:

  • More than $320,000 to the Republican National State Elections Committee

Notable state-level contributions (see here): 

  • $390,000 to the California Republican Party (2010)
  • $250,000 to the Florida Republican Party (2012)
  • $250,000 to Scott Walker's gubernatorial bid in Wisconsin (2012)
  • $100,000 to Coloradans Against A Really Stupid Idea (2004)

Corporate ownership: Controlling interest, Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Subsidiaries: Sands China Ltd., Venetian Macau Ltd.

Total spent on federal lobbying (2007-2012): $1.3 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics

Lobbying issues: Gambling and casinos, labor and workplace issues, trade, travel and tourism restrictions, taxes, banking, aviation.

Family: Wife Miriam Adelson, stepdaughters Yasmin Lukatz and Sivan Ochshorn, daughter Shelley Faye Adelson, four other children (one deceased).

Biography:

After bankrolling the main super PAC supporting former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's failed presidential bid, Sheldon Adelson pivoted to support GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his primary super PAC. Adelson has also reportedly funneled tens of millions more to conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofits, according to the Huffington Post. These groups are not required to disclose their donors.

Among them are Crossroads GPS, the Young Guns Network and groups aligned with the Koch brothers, the story said, citing unnamed sources.

All told, including donations given to both super PACs and nonprofits, Adelson and wife, Miriam, contributed more than $150 million to pro-Republican efforts during the 2012 election cycle, according the Huffington Post. Giving to super PACs alone, exceeded $93 million, which is more than any other individual or married couple.

At first, the casino magnate and top donor to super PACs was best known as a Gingrich’s most generous supporter. Adelson’s wife, Miriam, a physician, even wrote a $5 million check to the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future in late March. Days later, Adelson admitted that Gingrich was “at the end of his line.” The $5 million contribution was later refunded.

Until that point, Gingrich, who suspended his campaign on May 2, 2012, was the sole beneficiary of Adelson’s largesse. By Election Day, scores of candidates were aided by super PACs at the receiving end of Adelson's political contributions.

Gingrich and the Adelsons have known each other for years, and share similar pro-Israel and hard-line views on the Middle East. The Adelsons have donated hundreds of millions of dollars to various Jewish and Israeli causes through several charitable foundations they have created. Sheldon Adelson, born in 1933, is of Jewish-Ukrainian descent, and Miriam Adelson has dual citizenship in the United States and her native Israel.

Roughly two-thirds of Adelson’s $93 million went to super PACs that backed just one or two specific candidates. None of Adelson’s preferred candidates prevailed in any of the 10 races in which these super PACs were active.

Adelson was born in Dorchester, Mass., and attended City College of New York for some time before dropping out. Before entering the casino and gaming industry, Adelson worked as a mortgage broker, investment adviser and financial consultant. His biggest early business success was the annual Comdex computer trade show, which he and his partners first organized in 1979 and sold for $862 million in 1995.

Though Adelson lost heavily in the Great Recession, shares of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. have climbed from 2008 lows of less than $2 to more than $52 in early 2013, and Forbes reports he is the nation's eighth wealthiest man worth an estimated $21.5 billion. His casino empire extends across the United States and Asia, and the company’s annual report shows more than $9.4 billion in revenues in 2011.

The Las Vegas Sands Corp. has been under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice for more than a year on possible charges of bribing foreign officials, and more recently, for possible money laundering. A former executive’s 2010 wrongful-termination lawsuit also alleges that Las Vegas Sands Corp. was involved with Chinese organized crime groups.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a longtime campaign finance reform advocate, said the corporation’s activity abroad raises foreign money concerns.

“Obviously, maybe in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American campaign,” McCain said in an interview with PBS.

After Obama was re-elected on Nov. 6, the Hebrew-language newspaper owned by Adelson in Israel ran the news with the headline “America Chose Socialism,” according to Business Insider.

Last updated: Jan. 30, 2013

*2011-2012 election cycle. Source: Center for Responsive Politics and Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission records. Totals include contributions from individuals, family members and corporations that are controlled by the individual super donor.