The son-in-law of billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson arranged the $140 million purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Adelson's behalf, sources confirmed Wednesday....The Atlantic's Molly Ball reminds us why that's worrisome:
Fortune magazine on Wednesday cited "multiple sources familiar with the situation" in reporting Adelson was the newspaper's "primary buyer."
Adelson’s ownership ... provokes understandable fears that he’s going to turn a politically important state’s most prominent media property into a right-wing propaganda sheet.... He has a track record in this regard: In Israel, he founded a free daily named Israel Hayom that has become popular and influential with a combination of a populist-tabloid sensibility and a hard-right political line. It’s been called the Fox News of Israel; locals have nicknamed it “Bibiton” for its ardent support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Here's more from a March 2015 column by Tom Friedman (I know, I know, but keep reading):
... when it came to showering ... cash on Republican presidential hopefuls and right-wing PACs trying to defeat President Obama (reportedly $150 million in 2012), and on keeping Netanyahu and his Likud party in office, no single billionaire-donor is more influential than Sheldon.There's no question in my mind that Adelson bought the paper in order to advance his political goals; as Friedman notes, last fall, according to The Washington Post, Adelson "joked in a public discussion with a wealthy Israeli: 'Why don’t you and I go after The New York Times?' Told it was family owned, Adelson quipped, 'There is only one way to fight it: money.'"
... Israel has much stricter laws on individuals donating to political campaigns [than the U.S.], so Adelson got around that in 2007 by founding a free, giveaway newspaper in Israel -- Israel Hayom -- whose sole purpose is to back Netanyahu, attack his enemies in politics and the media, and enforce a far-right political agenda to prevent any Israeli territorial compromise on the West Bank.... Graphically attractive, Israel Hayom is now the biggest-circulation daily in Israel. Precisely because it is free, it is putting a heavy strain on competitors, like Yediot and Haaretz, which both charge and are not pro-Netanyahu.
Adelson then bought the most important newspaper of the religious-nationalist right in Israel, Makor Rishon, long considered the main backer of Netanyahu’s biggest right-wing rival, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. Last March, in an interview with Israel Army Radio after the Makor Rishon sale, Bennett said: “It saddens me. Israel Hayom is not a newspaper. It is Pravda. It’s the mouthpiece of one person, the prime minister. At every junction point, every point of friction between the national interest and the interest of the prime minister, they chose the side of the prime minister.”
But does he have any idea how to leverage the power of a newspaper far outside America power centers to influence national politics? It can be done -- the Internet can theoretically make any content go national -- but he'll have to invest enough money to get the job done and hire people with the skills to accomplish his aims. Adelson hasn't always had the greatest judgment -- how much money did he give four years ago to the futile campaign of Newt Gingrich?
But maybe this time he's going to back a somewhat more promising candidate. Marco Rubio is certainly trying to win his favor:
[Rubio] has avidly courted casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, sitting down with him privately numerous times, including a dinner in Washington weeks before launching his campaign in April, and checking in regularly by phone to talk about Israel and the campaign.Although:
In October, Rubio held a campaign meeting at Adelson’s Venetian hotel, site of the debate.
And Rubio has consistently championed Israel in speeches on the Senate floor while also pushing legislation aimed at supporting the cause....
Rubio has benefited from an outside group that has run TV ads featuring his hawkish foreign policy views, including a vow to tear up the Iran nuclear deal, which Adelson loathes. Rubio is also backing legislation Adelson is pushing to crush an expansion of online gambling, which threatens his global casino empire....
“Rubio calls and says, 'Hey, did you see this speech? Did you see my floor statement on Iran? What do you think I should do about this issue?’ ” a September New York magazine story quoted an unnamed Adelson friend as saying. “It’s impressive. Rubio is persistent.”
That scenario, however, has run into resistance from a surprising source: Miriam Adelson, the megadonor’s strong-willed and equally hawkish wife. An Israeli-born physician, Miriam Adelson has become enamored of late with Ted Cruz, according to four Republican sources close to the couple. The Texas senator has impressed her with his unwavering toughness on national security issues, especially his support for Israel, the issue that the couple cares most passionately about.However:
“He really likes Marco, but she really likes Cruz -- and it’s a standoff,” said one well-placed Republican fundraiser familiar with Adelson family dynamics.
One candidate unlikely to win Adelson’s support is Donald Trump. “Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to Rubio because he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet,” Trump wrote recently on Twitter.In any case, Adelson going to try to use this acquisition to elect a president. But he tried to elect a president four years ago. We'll see if he fails again.
Still, Trump made his own attempts to curry favor with Adelson, including phone calls in which he talked about living in a city with a large Jewish population and, according to The New York Times, noting that his daughter converted to Judaism.