Adelson, Gingrich, and the Selling of America

Foreign policy and campaign finance reform

by , January 25, 2012

If you want to know what’s wrong with our campaign finance laws – and our political system in a more general sense – look at the way Sheldon Adelson is buying the Republican nomination for his sock puppet, Newt Gingrich.

Right now, the anonymous donors to a political action committee, or PAC, can buy ads on behalf of – or against – a candidate, and spend unlimited amounts as long as there is no official connection between the PAC and any candidate. This degree of separation, however, is pure fiction: in reality, “former” aides to the candidate can and do operate these “Super PACs,” which are funded by one Daddy Warbucks or another: no overt coordination is necessary. What’s important here is disclosure, or the lack of it: the PACs don’t have to say who is funding these ads, only that the “Committee for Good Government” or some such semi-fictional entity is paying for it. In this way, Adelson – a casino billionaire, one of the richest people in the country – can drop a cool $10 million into the race (with more in the pipeline) and in effect buy the election, without the average voter knowing who is paying the bills. In short, Adelson can operate in the dark, as far as Joe Voter is concerned – and darkness is what the Adelsonian agenda requires above all.

So what is Adelson’s agenda?

He and his allies have been campaigning for war with Iran for years, not only here but in the Middle East. Adelson is a major financial backer of Israel’s ultra-nationalist Likud party, which calls in its platform for a “Greater Israel,” and he has backed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the hilt. The 16th richest man in the world, with his casino empire stretching from Macao to Las Vegas, he thought nothing of giving $60 million to Israel’s anniversary celebration. He is also a major backer of AIPAC, the most important pro-Israel lobbying organization – but downsized his contribution when the group signed on to the two-state solution advanced by both Republican and Democratic presidents – on the grounds that the plan means Israel is “committing suicide.” He supports the extremist – and increasingly violent – “settler” movement, and is the money-bags behind the “Clarion Fund,” which is responsible for flooding the US with anti-Arab propaganda. As a major contributor to the “Birthright” program, which sponsors trips to Israel by students from around the world, he addressed a recent Birthright gathering in Israel, where he declared:

Read the history of those who call themselves Palestinians, and you will hear why [Newt] Gingrich said recently that the Palestinians are an invented people. There are a number of Palestinians who will recognize the truth of this statement.”

In spite of being a highly-paid and sought after “historian” of note, you’ll be surprised, I’m sure, to learn Gingrich takes his lessons from Adelson, whose academic credentials are far less impressive. Because Newt didn’t always believe the Palestinians are a figment of their own imaginations: this idea coincided with Adelson’s generous donations to Gingrich, Inc.

In a 2005 article for the Middle East Quarterly, Professor Newt opined that the Palestinians are “a relatively wealthy, educated, and cosmopolitan people,” who are “in some ways among the most international and most advanced people in the Arab world.” So advanced that they “invented” themselves? He also called for the US government to “establish a program of economic aid for the Palestinians to match the aid the U.S. government provides Israel.”

While Newt’s 2005 piece disparages the role of diplomacy, and attacks the present Palestinian leadership (including the Palestinian Authority/PLO) as nothing but a bunch of “terrorists,” he writes:

“The U.S. government should become the protector of the Palestinian people’s right to have a decent amount of land. The desire of some Israelis to use security as an excuse to grab more Palestinian land should be blocked by Washington even if that requires employing financial or other leverage to compel the Israeli government to behave reasonably on the issue of settlements. It is vital to our credibility in the entire Middle East that we insist on an end to Israeli expansionism. It is vital to our humanitarian duty to the Palestinian people that we protect the weaker party from the stronger power. It is vital that the world sees that our total support for Israeli security is not matched by a one-sided support for more extreme Israeli territorial demands.”

Upon receiving a record amount of $13 million from Adelson – the latest installment was a check for $5 million from Miriam Adelson, his Israeli-born wife – Newt the Historian woke up one morning to discover that there are no Palestinians – only a horde of drooling Orcs trespassing on Israeli land.

While expressing concern in his 2005 article that the Iranians could develop nuclear weapons, he gave it “another generation of violence and hatred” until it would result in “a devastating attack on Israel.” These days, however, he is taking Adelson’s view, which is that war with Iran is inevitable and necessarily imminent. As Connie Bruck reported in her definitive 2008 New Yorker profile:

“Adelson is also funding, with a $4.5-million grant, a think tank, the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies, at the right-leaning Shalem Center, in Jerusalem. Netanyahu allies are on its staff. Natan Sharansky, the chairman of One Jerusalem, also chairs the Adelson Institute. Sharansky helped organize a “Democracy and Security” conference last June, in Prague, which was attended by President Bush. Iran was a major topic of discussion. A month after the Prague conference, Adelson attended a fund-raising event at the C.A.A. talent agency, in Los Angeles, for Steven Emerson, an investigative journalist specializing in Islamic extremism and terrorism, who was showing a ten-minute trailer for a film he wanted to make. Emerson introduced Sheldon and Miriam to the overflow crowd in C.A.A.’s two-hundred-seat theatre, saying that they were his generous supporters. After Emerson’s presentation, Pooya Dayanim, a Jewish-Iranian democracy activist based in Los Angeles, chatted with Adelson. Recalling their conversation, Dayanim observed that Adelson was dismissive of Reza Pahlevi, the son of the former Shah, who had participated in the Prague conference, because, Adelson said, ‘he doesn’t want to attack Iran.’ According to Dayanim, Adelson referred to another Iranian dissident at the conference, Amir Abbas Fakhravar, whom he said he would like to support, saying, ‘I like Fakhravar because he says that, if we attack, the Iranian people will be ecstatic.’ Dayanim said that when he disputed that assumption Adelson responded, ‘I really don’t care what happens to Iran. I am for Israel.’”

Gingrich called for the assassination of Iranian scientists even before the bombs started to go off inside Iran, and vies with Rick Santorum to see who can rattle the saber in Tehran’s direction the loudest.

War with Iran is the culmination of the “Clean Break” Strategy presented to Netanyahu in 1996 by a group of American neoconservatives who recommended a new strategy of aggression that would break the Jewish state out of what they perceived to be a cul de sac that would fatally subvert the Zionist project. Instead of playing defense, Israel must go on the offensive, and take out Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, his brother Ba’athists in Syria, and ultimately effect a change of regime in Iran. With Saddam gone, Bashar al-Assad on the way out, and Iran in America’s cross hairs, the “Clean Break” has so far been a resounding success: all that remains is for a US President to give the order to attack Iran. If Adelson has his way, that day will come soon: that is what he thinks he is buying when he pours his millions into the Gingrich campaign.

The idea is to make support for Israel a “wedge issue” to benefit the Republican party, like abortion or gay marriage: by funding Gingrich, Adelson hopes to complete the Likud-ization of the GOP. Such a party will junk the two-state solution upheld by every Republican president, go along with the “Clean Break” strategy – and willingly destroy the American economy by starting a war that would instantly drive the price of energy through the roof.

The “wedge” strategy is looked on with distrust and real fear by the mainstream Jewish leadership in this country, which has always valued the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus as the basis of the “special relationship.” The Likudnik Clean Breakers, however, are taking a radical new tack, one that could easily set off a political backlash, and lead to an increase in anti-Israel – and anti-Semitic – sentiment in the Democratic base. In Israel, too, there is resentment of Adelson, the American, telling Israelis what’s best for them and meddling in their politics. He says “I am for Israel,” but Israelis know he isn’t of Israel, and can afford to play war games from a safe distance.

That someone pursuing the agenda of a foreign country can hide behind some benign-sounding PAC and pour unlimited amounts of anonymous cash into our elections represents a real threat to our national security – and ought to make one think twice about our current campaign finance laws. Furthermore, it is a national disgrace that Miriam Adelson – who has not renounced her Israeli citizenship – can write a $5 million check and hand it to a candidate who is beating the war drums day and night on Israel’s behalf. Political contributions from foreign sources are illegal, and that’s the way it ought to be: but what about dual citizens? Should they be allowed to influence the American political process in favor of their other allegiance – and, while we’re on the subject, why do we allow dual citizenship, anyway?

Read more by Justin Raimondo