In Praise of Sheldon Adelson

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By Francis Wilkinson

Sheldon Adelson appears to be this year's handiest example of campaign finance run amok. By my count, the billionaire CEO of the Las Vegas Sands and his family have donated at least $40 million to Republican political groups while promising tens of millions more. Most of the money is going to much-reviled super-PACs such as Restore Our Future, the independent expenditure committee run by former Mitt Romney aides whose sole purpose is to elect their man president while pretending they barely know him.

Adelson has a list of political axes to grind, ranging from tax rates (he wants them lower) to U.S. policy toward Israel (he opposes a two-state solution with Palestine). He is not shy about his feelings: He wants a Republican in the White House, and he's spending tens of millions to get one.

Some of Adelson's Obama-hating billionaire colleagues and corporate allies, by contrast, are too demure to operate in the open. Instead, these fragile blossoms contribute anonymously to groups like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS (which may be a recipient of Adelson largesse, as well)  or to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which acts increasingly like a coordinated arm of the Republican Party.

So give Adelson his due: He is open about his motives and has let the public in on the deal. That's better for democracy than flooding the system with secret donations. The only people who know what those donors want in return are the candidates and their aides.

(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board. Follow him on Twitter.)

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-0- Jul/02/2012 15:33 GMT