“Sheldon Adelson Isn’t in This for Money” - Harry Reid
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The Fiscal Times
May 8, 2014

Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is the eighth richest person in the world with a net worth of $40.8 billion and holdings including the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino and the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

He has showered money on Republican candidates since abandoning the Democratic Party years ago and spent an estimated $150 million supporting Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and other GOP candidates during the 2012 presidential campaign.

Related: The Koch Brothers Aren’t the Problem

Adelson is now mounting a high-priced lobbying campaign to persuade Congress to ban Internet gambling. He says the practice is a danger to society and could tarnish the industry’s traditional business model, but – by the way – it also poses a financial threat to his bricks and mortar casinos.  

Yet Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who has been leading a scathing, non-stop attack on the billionaire Republican contributors Charles and David Koch, had nothing but kind words for Adelson during an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd that was aired on Thursday morning.

Reid argued that the Koch brothers – whom he described on the floor of the Senate as “un-American” – are playing the political game primarily to feather their nests even more and impose their conservative libertarian views on the rest of the country.  

“These are the two richest people in the world and they are in it to make money,” Reid explained to Todd. “That’s their whole goal here. To add zeroes to their billions.”  

When Todd pressed Reid on the seeming hypocrisy of blasting the Koch brothers while giving Adelson a pass, Reid became defensive and cited his long-standing personal relationship with the Las Vegas businessman.

Related: Election-Year Shift from Reid on Keystone Pipeline Vote   

“I know Sheldon Adelson — he’s not in this for money,” Reid said. “He’s in it because he has certain ideological views. Now, Sheldon Adelson’s social views are in keeping with the Democrats. On choice, on all kinds of things. So, Sheldon Adelson, don’t pick on him. He’s not in it to make money.”

Say what?

Reid’s verbal contortions in defending one Republican multi-billionaire who has repeatedly attempted to topple the Democrats while savaging two other had some political analysts scratching their heads. Todd later summed up the dilemma by telling MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that “You can’t have selective billionaire outrage.”

In fairness to Reid, his familiarity and proximity to Adelson in Nevada probably has tempered his view of his arch rival. As the Las Vegas Sun has observed, Reid and Adelson are kindred spirits in that they are the two most powerful Nevada patriarchs. As the newspaper wrote during the 2012 campaign:

Related: A New Tidal Wave of Money Could Decide Senate Races

“Reid is, by any measure, the don of Democrats: He groomed the incumbent president as a young politician, hand-picked the party’s slate of Senate challengers who will try to pick up seats from Republicans this November and, in swing-state Nevada, is the architect of what is arguably the best statewide ground organization in the Democratic Party. While Adelson has not racked up such accomplishments, he boasts another important superlative, especially in this election season: the deepest pockets in the Republican Party, UNLV political scientist David Damore said.

Beyond their close proximity and personal dealings, Adelson poses far less of a threat to Reid right now than the Koch brothers, whose campaign spending through the outside group Americans for Prosperity could cost the Democrats their majority in the Senate in November.

The two billionaire industrialists and their networks of undisclosed donors, have surfaced as the largest independent political force on the Republican side. Already, groups linked to the Kochs have spent more than $25 million on television and radio in crucial 2014 House and Senate races, according to Democratic media-buying sources. Other reports, which also count spending on digital advertising, show a total that is closer to $30 million.

The New York Times in March reported that Reid and the Democrats view spotlighting the Koch brothers activities as politically shrewd. Reid reportedly was particularly struck by a presentation during a Democratic retreat, which emphasized that one of the best ways to draw an effective contrast is to pick a villain. “And by scolding the Koch brothers, Mr. Reid is trying to draw them out, both to raise their public profile, and also to help rally the Democratic base,” The Times reported.

In an extensive recent  interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal Reid admitted that he was setting up the Koch brothers as his evil straw men in order to motivate Democratic donors to give more. When the reporter suggested that Reid’s obsession with the Koch brothers was mostly strategic, Reid replied: “So?”

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Washington Editor and D.C. Bureau Chief Eric Pianin is a veteran journalist who has covered the federal government, congressional budget and tax issues, and national politics. He spent over 25 years at The Washington Post.