ATLANTA (AP) — He's an ardent supporter of Israel. A megabillionaire casino mogul whose Las Vegas Sands Corp. is under federal investigation. And the self-proclaimed "richest Jew in the world."
Sheldon Adelson is also, far and away, the biggest patron of Newt Gingrich's surging Republican presidential bid. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, have pumped $10 million into a political action committee backing Gingrich that is run by the former House speaker's onetime aides. Campaign finance experts say the two $5 million contributions are among the largest known political donations in U.S. history.
No other candidate in the race for president appears to be relying so heavily on the fortune of a single donor. It's been made possible by last year's Supreme Court rulings — known as Citizens United — that recast the political landscape by stripping away restrictions on contributions and how outside groups can spend their money.
Sheldon Adelson is Citizens United come to life.Nevada casino mogul pumping millions into Newt Gingrich's campaign
For the past several weeks, few people have been enjoying the Republican presidential campaign quite as much as Foster Friess. The 71-year-old mutual fund millionaire from Wyoming, who has emerged as the key backer of Rick Santorum’s super PAC, has taken advantage of the access his largesse affords by joining the candidate on the campaign trail. While a Santorum surge began stirring in the Iowa cornfields, Friess was a passenger in the gunmetal Dodge RAM — nicknamed the “Chuck Truck,” because it belonged to local supporter Chuck Laudner — that schlepped Santorum around the Hawkeye State. On Election Night, he bounded into the Stoney Creek Inn in Johnston, Iowa, to regale reporters with tales from the caucus site he’d visited. Asked if he was enjoying himself, Friess beamed, “If I was any better I’d be an astronaut. It’s one of the most incredible experiences of America I’ve ever had.”Under the Cowboy Hat: Foster Friess, Santorum’s Controversial Benefactor
And although Rick Perry is no longer in the race, he had his own personal backers:
DALLAS (AP) — Texas billionaire and philanthropist Charles Wyly, whose family donated millions of dollars to Republican causes and Dallas arts projects, has died after a car accident in western Colorado, authorities said. He was 77.So when can we stop pretending American elections are anything else but a fight between a small sliver of ultra-rich plutocrats that has nothing at all to do with the rest of us?
In Texas, Wyly and his younger brother, Sam, along with their wives, gave $20 million to help build Dallas' performing arts center. They also donated big, but quietly, to Republican causes: the brothers had said they'd given about $10 million to GOP candidates and causes since the 1970s.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry was one of the biggest political beneficiaries, receiving more than $300,000 combined from the Wylys since 2000, according to Texas Ethics Commission reports. According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, the brothers had donated almost $2.5 million to more than 200 Republican candidates and committees at the federal level over the past two decades. Last summer, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Wyly and his brother of using offshore havens to hide more than a half-billion dollars in profits over 13 years of insider stock trading. The brothers denied and were fighting the allegations.
UPDATE: Slate fills us in on the billionaire backers of Mitt Romney and Ron Paul:
The previous 24 hours had been rough on the political tycoons. Foster Friess, the cowboy-hat wearing backer of Rick Santorum, appeared on MSNBC twice: once to joke about women preventing pregnancy by putting Bayer aspirin “between their knees,” once to apologize. Sheldon Adelson, whose previous $10 million investment in Newt Gingrich hadn’t netted much, spun the media ‘round again by promising $10 million more. Frank VanderSloot, a national finance co-chair of Mitt Romney’s campaign, was filleted by a Salon report on his Bond villain-esque habit of hushing up critics with lawsuits.
This news cycle was sputtering out when Peter Thiel, the billionaire founder of PayPal, the $2.6 million-angel for a Ron Paul Super PAC, arrived at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. His audience: hundreds of young libertarians, most of them dressed as if they expected to be ambushed by job interviewers, overcrowding every inch of hotel carpet. They were trapped in America’s least libertarian city for the third annual Students for Liberty conference. Thiel was the first-night keynoter, assigned the heavy task of pulling college kids away from the hotel bars.