Dr. Miriam Adelson, the Israeli-born physician and wife of hotel and casino titan Sheldon Adelson, donated $5 million on Monday to the super PAC supporting Mr. Gingrich, Winning our Future. Mr. Adelson had already donated $5 million to Winning our Future earlier this month, and his previous donation proved instrumental in the resurgence of Mr. Gingrich’s candidacy in South Carolina this past week. Considering the expenses involved in waging a significant campaign effort in Florida, supporters of Mr. Gingrich are now breathing a sigh of relief.
The recent growth of Gingrich’s campaign came as a surprise following his poor performances in Iowa and New Hampshire. After placing fourth in both primaries, the candidate’s prospects looked bleak. Talk of the impending decline of his campaign propelled Mr. Adelson to act, and his funds were largely redirected towards tarnishing Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate who held a commanding position in the race before Saturday. Mr. Romney’s super PAC, Restore our Future, had severely undermined Gingrich in Iowa and played a pivotal role in weakening his campaign. With a renewed infusion of funds in South Carolina, and Michele Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Perry ending their presidential bids, Newt Gingrich found himself in a surprisingly fortuitous position. The super PAC supporting Gingrich released a video that cast Romney as a corporate raider, and this, combined with impressive debate performances, pushed Gingrich ahead of the pack. He won the South Carolina primary by twelve percentage points.
Sheldon Adelson is a well-known colleague of Mr. Gingrich, as the relationship between the two extends to the early 1990s, when the men united to undercut the efforts of labor unions in Nevada. The CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp, Mr. Adelson is currently worth upwards of $21 billion and is a staunch supporter of Israel. He owns Israel Hayom, one of Israel’s top newspapers, and his advocacy on behalf of Israel and PM Benjamin Netanyahu has drawn him closer to Gingrich, who espouses similar views. When Gingrich recently dubbed the Palestinians an “invented people,” Adelson came to his support.
“Read the history of those who call themselves Palestinians, and you will hear why Gingrich said recently that the Palestinians are an invented people,” he allegedly said in a recent interview. “There are a number of Palestinians who will recognize the truth of this statement.” Mr. Adelson’s contributions to Israel have found expression in the numerous donations he has made to Israeli organizations, ranging from the Birthright Israel program, which offers a free ten day trip to Israel to Diaspora Jews, to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem. The hotel magnate’s support for Mr. Gingrich is, at least partly, an extension of his support for Israel.
While earlier campaign funds were earmarked for belittling Mr. Romney and his electoral appeal, Dr. Adelson asked that this latest infusion be used strictly “to continue the pro-Newt message.” Having donated a total of $10 million towards Mr. Gingrich’s campaign efforts in the last month, the Adelson couple has come to epitomize the cataclysmic shift of power in national politics from the candidates to their affluent supporters.
In the aftermath of the landmark Supreme Court Citizens United decision, super Political Action Committees (PACs) came into being and began generating funds in support of particular candidates. These committees are typically comprised of former aides and wealthy officials, and can solicit an unlimited sum of funds from the public, provided they do not directly coordinate with the affiliated campaign. Lay influence on the presidential race was previously limited to the maximum $2,500 direct campaign donation; the introduction of super PACs imposed no limits.
According to the New York Times, super PACs have already spent more than $30 million in the Republican race. While the wealthy may revel in their increasing influence, opponents of the latest policies have expressed what they perceive to be the disquieting current state of affairs.
“To me, the amounts of money and the directness with which wealthy individuals give it is even more excessive than it was in the days of Watergate,” said Ellen S. Miller of the Sunlight Foundation, which seeks to illuminate the workings of the United States government. “What we are seeing now is a systematic breaking of the floodgates, effectively eliminating any firewalls between candidates and unlimited political giving.”
Regardless of whether the latest Supreme Court ruling bodes well for the future of American politics, it is clear that super PACs have and will continue to profoundly affect the dynamics of the Republican race. Though the evolving political atmosphere will work to the detriment of some candidates, Newt Gingrich has generally been a beneficiary.