What happened in Las Vegas last week wasn’t meant to stay in Las Vegas. Zionist billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his Republican Jewish Coalition spent two days vetting some prospective Republican presidential candidates. The GOP politicians sold themselves to the assembled power elites as Israel-firsters. The event was a painful reminder that if you want to run for office, any office, then impressing the Jewish constituency — actually the one percent of that tiny voter bloc — is the crucial first step on the campaign trail.
The Washington Post called the meeting “the first Republican primary of the 2016 presidential election,” while The Las Vegas Review Journal asserted, “the pro-Israel pandering that went on at the Republican Jewish Coalition — and it was plentiful — was obvious and clumsy.”
As James Besser wrote in the Jewish Week, GOPers chasing Jewish backing is “about money, not votes.” Besser says:
Jewish Republicans aren’t indifferent to the possibility of picking up some extra Jewish votes, especially in critical states like Florida, but few are naïve enough to believe there’s a chance of winning over enough to make a real difference in the final vote tally. Jewish votes — a drop in the huge electoral bucket — are much less important than Israel-focused campaign cash.
Sheldon Adelson is the 10th richest person in the world — some say the eighth, but hey, what’s a few billion here or there. He’s one of the fattest of America’s political fat cats. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that during the 2012 elections Adelson gave $20 million to Winning Our Future, the super PAC that backed Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid, then poured $30 million into the Restore Our Future, one of the super PACs supporting former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney — he also underwrote Karl Rove’s political operation to the tune of $23 million. All told, Adelson and his wife invested a little shy of $100 million into the 2012 campaign sweepstakes — more money than anyone else in American history according to the investigative news service Pro Publica. Last December, he told the Wall Street Journal he was ready to double that bet. “I’ll spend that much and more. Let’s cut any ambiguity.”
Adelson called together a couple of hundred of his closest friends to his Venetian Hotel, with its 8,000 rooms including 4,049 suites, to scrutinize some of the White House hopefuls. Ohio Governor John Kasich, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker were among the candidates on parade. Apparently House Speaker John Boehner was in the neighborhood and he attended RJC’s board meeting on Friday.
At the mic, Scott Walker had no shame. The Wisconsin Governor conceded that foreign affairs was “not an area that governors typically look at,” but he did boast that he is, no less, Commander in Chief of the Wisconsin National Guard. Walker offered this credential too: he lights a menorah at the governor’s mansion during Hanukkah and named one of his kids Matthew — which means “gift from God” in Hebrew.
With a straight face, Ohio Governor John Kasich told the private meeting of wealthy political insiders — with very special interests — that Republicans should show voters that they understand their problems by seizing the “moral high ground.”
New Jersey’s Chris Christie touched some hot buttons, earning four standing ovations in his 30-minute presentation. He said he likes traveling to Israel because the country is “about the same size as New Jersey.” bada-bing.
However, Christie needs a little more training before the 2016 season. When he boasted of his RJC-funded trip to Israel — eight members of the Christie family were flown in a private jet and housed in Jerusalem’s most famous hotel, the King David (the state of New Jersey coughed up $40,000 in security expenses) — he said he was taken by helicopter over the “occupied territories.” Although Israeli settlements are illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, at RJC and similar confabs the terms “Greater Israel” or Judea-Samaria are politically correct. Morton Klein, president of the formidable Zionist Organization of America lobby, chided Christie, “at minimum you should call it disputed territories.”
Christie met with Adelson privately and, according to the news outlet Politico, “clarified in the strongest terms possible that his remarks today were not meant to be a statement of policy.” Christie confessed, “that he misspoke when he referred to the ‘occupied territories.’ And he conveyed that he is an unwavering friend and committed supporter of Israel, and was sorry for any confusion that came across as a result of the misstatement.”
Politico reports that Adelson accepted Christie’s apology.
In 2012, Matt Brooks, the RJC’s executive director, pitched 100 members for coalition-funded ads opposing President Barack Obama’s policies. He asked the group to give or get $6.5 million to help run them in Romney’s battleground states. He told the faithful that their contributions would not be publicly disclosed because RJC is an IRS-designated social welfare nonprofit that “educates the public” on its special interests. Brooks declared, “We don’t make our donors’ names available. We can take corporate money, personal money, cash, shekels, whatever you got.” Brooks also assures backers, “Everything we do is strictly within the legal guidelines.”
At the Republican Jewish Coalition’s Las Vegas bash, Adelson joked that he couldn’t give a $50 million contribution to RJC because they didn’t have change for $1 billion.
RJC’s gathering last week was one of several — Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio was the featured speaker at a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting last May. Adelson let it be known that he thinks, “Rubio is a very impressive guy. I’ve talked to him privately many times, and he’s extremely knowledgeable. I’ve discussed a lot of esoteric issues with him and he’s right up there.” There are other appropriate forums to show off Adelson’s stamp of approval. Last year Adelson presented the “Adelson Defender of Israel” award to Mike Huckabee at a Zionist Organization of America dinner. He said the former Arkansas Governor was “a great politician, a great person, a great American, and a great Zionist.”
Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush’s White House Press Secretary and who serves on the Republican Jewish Coalition’s board, states, “Certainly the ‘Sheldon Primary’ is an important primary for any Republican running for president. It goes without saying that anybody running for the Republican nomination would want to have Sheldon at his side.” Sheldon Adelson explains why: “I didn’t go to business school. The name of my game is to eat his lunch.”
Peter B. Gemma has been published in a variety of venues including USA Today (where more than 100 of his commentaries have appeared), Military History, the DailyCaller.com, The Washington Examiner, and the EconomicPopulist.org