This story is part of a larger profile appearing in the March 12th, 2012 issue of FORBES magazine. The complete cover story will appear online beginning Wednesday, February 22nd.
-By Steven Bertoni
February 21, 2012- Sheldon Adelson plays as stubbornly in politics as he does in business. So the criticisms that he’s trying to personally buy the presidential election for Newt Gingrich are met with a roll of the eyes. “Those people are either jealous or professional critics,” Adelson tells me during his first interview since he and his wife began funneling $11 million, with another $10 million injection widely expected, into the former speaker’s super PAC, Winning Our Future. “They like to trash other people. It’s unfair that I’ve been treated unfair—but it doesn’t stop me. I might give $10 million or $100 million to Gingrich.”
Adelson, the 78-year-old CEO of casino giant Las Vegas Sands, certainly can afford to: With a net worth of roughly $25 billion, that $11 million, which jolted Gingrich’s flatlining presidential bid back to life, equates to 0.044% of his fortune. For someone with a $1 million net worth, the equivalent would be $440, or a two-night stay at Adelson’s Venetian casino. Adelson could personally fund an entire presidential campaign—say, $1 billion or so—and not even notice.
Is that fair? “I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections,” he shrugs. “But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it. Because I know that guys like Soros have been doing it for years, if not decades. And they stay below the radar by creating a network of corporations to funnel their money. I have my own philosophy and I’m not ashamed of it. I gave the money because there is no other legal way to do it. I don’t want to go through ten different corporations to hide my name. I’m proud of what I do and I’m not looking to escape recognition.”
He’s also proud of his hawkish defense of Israel—his wife is Israeli and his young sons carry Israeli passports. Yet those who have categorized his patronage of Gingrich and other Republicans as a one-issue investment have it wrong. The man whose net worth, by Forbes’ calculations, has jumped more ($21.6 billion) during the Obama administration than any other American — Mark Zuckerberg included — wants to take the president out for economic reasons.“What scares me is the continuation of the socialist-style economy we’ve been experiencing for almost four years. That scares me because the redistribution of wealth is the path to more socialism, and to more of the government controlling people’s lives. What scares me is the lack of accountability that people would prefer to experience, just let the government take care of everything and I’ll go fish or I won’t work, etc.”
“U.S. domestic politics is very important to me because I see that the things that made this country great are now being relegated into duplicating that which is making other countries less great. … I’m afraid of the trend where more and more people have the tendency to want to be given instead of wanting to give. People are less willing to share. There are fewer philanthropists being grown and there are greater expectations of the government. I believe that people will come to their senses and not extend the current Administration’s quest to socialize this country. It won’t be a socialist democracy because it won’t be a democracy.”