The extent to which a billionaire can buy his way onto the world stage was on dismal display when Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who is a fervent opponent of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, took his seat beside the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, at a fundraising event this week.
Adelson has risen to prominence via his lavish funding of so-called super PACs, political groups that aren’t subject to many campaign-finance laws because they’re supposedly independent of the candidates and campaigns. But at a breakfast this week in Jerusalem, there was Adelson, a major donor to “Restore Our Future,” a super PAC devoted to sending Romney to the White House, right next to the candidate himself. The Federal Election Commission bars super PACs from coordinating directly with candidates. Apparently, there’s no stricture against sitting next to one.
Adelson has condemned the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — which is the stated objective of both the American and Israeli governments — as a stepping stone to the destruction of Israel. He’s entitled to his views, extreme as they may be. But he shouldn’t be able to purchase a seat on the world’s political stage, and use it to try to derail the Mideast peace process.
Adelson has vowed to spend $100 million to defeat President Obama. He also uses his money to push his political agenda in Israel, where he bankrolls a free-distribution newspaper, Israel Hayom, which supports many of Netanyahu’s hard-line policies.
Romney has no natural affection for Adelson. The mogul and his wife spent $20 million trying to get the Republican nomination for Newt Gingrich over Romney. Under normal circumstances, Romney wouldn’t give any special thought to Adelson’s opinion. But money can buy a candidate’s ear. For American voters, the Dorchester-born Adelson’s presence on this crucial trip for Romney in Israel shows just how close he’s gotten to the candidate. It also raises legitimate questions about how much special access and influence his money might get him if Romney is elected.