Billionaire casino developer Sheldon Adelson, the most generous identified donor of the presidential election, has reportedly made his first contribution to the super PAC backing Mitt Romney’s candidacy, a $10 million gift that dwarfs any other contribution to Restore Our Future.
Adelson, a Dorchester native, and his wife, Miriam, had given $25.3 million to conservative candidates and committees through April, but none had gone toward aiding Romney. Most of their money had been given to a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich, one of Romney’s GOP primary opponents and a principal target of Restore Our Future’s attack ads.
But with the former House speaker out of the race, Adelson met with Romney last month in Las Vegas and pledged to back him. The $10 million gift to Restore Our Future, reported first by The Wall Street Journal, makes him by far the biggest donor to the group, eclipsing Houston home-builder Bob Perry, who has contributed $4 million.
Super PACS are outside groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money for a cause or a candidate, but they must disclose their donors and cannot coordinate their spending with candidates. Restore Our Future, by far the most active super PAC in the primaries, was founded by former Romney advisers.
A spokeswoman for the super PAC declined to comment on the Adelson donation, which will help replenish the group’s coffers after it spent about $44 million in the primary season. The group has spent just $4 million so far on the general election, according to Federal Election Commission filings, and had raised $56.5 million through April.
Romney is relying on outside conservative groups such as Restore Our Future to counter the campaign fund-raising lead held by President Obama.
Romney’s joint fund-raising committee topped Obama’s by almost $17 million in May, according to the campaigns, and the Romney campaign reportedly made a $3.3 million ad buy this week, its largest of the general election. But one strong month is hardly enough to make up for the president’s significant overall advantage. Through April, Obama had $115.2 million cash on hand, compared with Romney’s $9.2 million. Updated figures that reflect May fund-raising will become public on June 20.
That makes outside groups crucial to Romney’s efforts. Alone, Adelson’s $10 million gift almost matches the total raised through April by Priorities USA Action, the leading pro-Obama super PAC.
Restore Our Future and a legion of other conservative groups - including Americans for Prosperity, run by petroleum tycoons David and Charles Koch, and the Karl Rove-led American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS - plan to spend a combined $1 billion by Election Day, according to a report by the Politico website.
Adelson and Romney make an odd pair. Gambling, the foundation of Adelson’s empire, is condemned by Romney’s Mormon church. Romney told a Las Vegas television station in February that he opposes legal online poker because gambling is addictive and potentially ruinous for participants.
For his part, Adelson, who is Jewish, reportedly wanted assurance that Romney would support Israel more strongly than President Obama has. Over the years, Adelson has given $100 million to Taglit-Birthright Israel, which sponsors trips to Israel for young Jews.
The chief executive of resort-casino giant Las Vegas Sands is worth almost $25 billion, according to Forbes magazine, a sum that makes him the nation’s seventh-richest person.
He reportedly plans to spend as much as $100 million during this election season, even though large political donations violate his own stated beliefs.
“I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections,’’ he told Forbes in March. “But as long as it’s doable, I’m going to do it.’’Callum Borchers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.