Sheldon Adelson Listens to GOP Hopefuls at Republican Jewish Coalition

Posted on April 27th, 2015 by Jon Pineda
Sheldon Adelson Republican Jewish Coalition

The influence Sheldon Adelson holds isn’t limited to online gambling but the political capabilities of GOP frontrunners who are desperately seeking the billionaire’s financial support. (Image: Reuters/Vivek Prakash)

Sheldon Adelson doesn’t just run his Las Vegas Sands Corp. empire and manage his $30 billion; he’s also one of the Republican Party’s largest and most influential donors, which is why several 2016 frontrunners for the GOP ticket attended the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Spring Leadership Meeting over the weekend to appeal to the mega-donor.

From Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) who initially sponsored the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) in the Senate, a measure that would ban online poker, to former Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) and current Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), presidential hopefuls catered to the organization’s mission in their speeches while also making their case for Adelson’s backing.

Held at Sheldon’s posh Venetian Resort and Hotel in Las Vegas, the weekend-long event featured the who’s who of Republicans including former GOP nominee Mitt Romney and 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush. While the convention is an annual meeting to discuss the RJC’s goal of enhancing the American Jewish community’s relationship with Republican lawmakers, online gambling certainly had a presence.

Not Showing Hand

Much of the three-day convention took place behind closed doors and free of media reporting, and the speakers and attendees are making no effort to reveal what was discussed. “I met with Sheldon. The one thing I’ve learned about Sheldon is you tell people what you talked to Sheldon about, that’s not a good thing,” Sen. Graham told reporters.

One can only assume that the two talked about the subject of online gambling, primarily that of RAWA. Though Rep. Jason Chaffetz (D-California) is leading the RAWA efforts in the House, holding a hearing on the bill just last month, Graham has been seemingly lackadaisical on the subject since Congress skipped over it during the passage of last December’s omnibus bill.

The one-on-one between Adelson and Graham was likely to confer on RAWA’s next steps. Early last month, Graham said his office would reintroduce RAWA “if the world would stop blowing up.”

What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas

Adelson didn’t attend Saturday morning’s seminar, the lone event open to media coverage, but Sen. Cruz did speak. Though Internet gambling was on the list of topics to be covered, the larger and more important issue was that of President Obama’s ongoing talks with Iran.

“It is not complicated for Republican politicians to come to the RJC and say they’ll stand with Israel,” Cruz said. “Unless you’re a blithering idiot, that’s what you say when you come to the RJC.”

Much of the speeches at the RJC Spring Leadership likely covered the current situation in Israel and Iran, while online gambling was probably discussed in more intimate settings. Jon Ralston, PBS host and political writer, said before the convention, “I’m also told Adelson plans to ask pointed questions of the candidates on online gaming. He will want real answers, not pabulum.”

The old adage of “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is undoubtedly holding true for the coalition, but in due time we’ll discover which candidate made the deepest impact on Adelson through the magnate’s campaign contributions. “By the way, if anyone thinks Sheldon Adelson has made a final decision in April 2015 who to load up on for president, you don’t know SGA,” Ralston appropriately stated.

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