There are many reasons to be concerned about the role that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has come to play in the current election cycle.
Sen. John McCain recently questioned the propriety of Mr. Adelson's donations, given that most of his money comes from casinos in Macau and foreign citizens are not allowed to contribute to U.S. campaigns. In June The New York Times editorialized that Mr. Adelson is "spending sums greater than any political donation in history to advance his personal, ideological and financial agenda, which is wildly at odds with the nation's needs." His views on Palestinians, which have been mimicked by candidates he supports, are far outside the mainstream of American Jewish opinion and his Middle East policy agenda runs counter to Israel's long-term interests.
According to Sheldon Adelson, AIPAC is helping Israel "commit suicide" and therefore no longer receives his significant support. Palestinians, he argues, are an "invented people."
Yet these concerns about Adelson are not being raised in our community. Instead, over the last few days, several prominent Jewish leaders rushed to his defense when the National Jewish Democratic Council called on Mitt Romney to stop taking the casino billionaire's money. Their rationale? NJDC had smeared Adelson by repeating accusations detailed in a recent Washington Post article that he had approved of prostitution in his Macau casinos.
The irony here is overwhelming. Adelson has personally smeared the entire Palestinian people. Repeatedly. He reportedly has mocked President Obama in front of a crowd of young Jews at a Birthright event. His money has been responsible for some of the most vicious attack ads of the entire election cycle to date. Yet somehow, according to some Jewish leaders, it is NJDC who stepped over the line. In the meantime, under intense pressure, the NJDC has backed off.
Americans generally, and American Jews in particular, reject both Adelson's views and his undue influence. If we really want a political process that reflects American opinion and our own values, we have to counter Adelson's millions of dollars with our millions of voices. We have to state clearly and unequivocally that his opinions are simply beyond the pale, and no dollar amount can change that fact. Allowing one wealthy man to buy the next American election will undermine everything this country stands for. It will also prove dangerous to Israel, the very country Adelson's acolytes claim to be supporting.
I think the allegations made against Adelson, in this lawsuit and others, are serious. But I am more concerned with the effect his money is having on our democracy, today. That's why the Jewish Council for Education & Research is picking up the NJDC effort and is calling on Mitt Romney, the entire GOP, and anyone involved with the upcoming elections to reject his influence and his dollars.
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