Can Sheldon Adelson be the Conservative Answer to George Soros?
by Dovid Efune
Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson recently made another super PAC donation of $5 million. This time the recipient was the GOP establishment run Congressional Leadership Fund, and the gift brought his family’s total super PAC contributions this election cycle to over $21.5 million.
In a February interview with Forbes Magazine, Adelson implied that his activism was in part spawned by a rival on the far opposite side of the political spectrum; financier, post-American globalist, patron of myriad liberal causes and anti-Israel groups, George Soros. “As long as it’s doable I’m going to do it. Because I know that guys like Soros have been doing it for years, if not decades,” he said.
On the surface, the two behemoth givers appear to be mirror images of each other. Both Jewish, of European descent, born just three years apart and listed 8 spaces away from each other on this year’s Forbes Billionaires List, each with fortunes estimated at more than $20 billion. A Fundrace search covering the current election cycle shows $103,000 in contributions from Soros, solely to Democratic candidates and $117,400 from Adelson exclusively pledged to Republicans. According to some estimates the 2003-4 and 2005-6 record Soros set in investing $27 million in liberal get-out-the-vote and media campaigns was topped by Adelson in the 2007-8 cycle in which he spent over $30 million.
When it comes to super PAC’s however, the contrast between the two men’s respective modus operandi couldn’t be starker. Whereas Adelson has splurged, Soros has remained on the sidelines and according to Jane Mayer writing in the New Yorker, “an informed source placed the probability that Soros would donate to a pro-Obama Super PAC at no more than ten per cent.”
It is true that Soros’ lack of engagement may be influenced by other factors, but this marked dissimilitude also appears to be indicative of the polar extremes by which the two men view the ‘exercising of influence,’ and there is much that Adelson can learn from his Hungarian counterpart.
Soros is a thinker and consummate strategist. He has authored 9 books, and stated that when starting a private investment firm in 1973, he hoped to earn $500,000 after five years to support his ambitions as a writer and philosopher. Since 1979 his funds have distributed $8 billion to liberal causes through his Open Society Foundations, described by the New York Times as “a sprawling constellation of more than 30 organizations that operate in places as diverse as Baltimore, Jakarta, the Kremlin and Congress.”
Soros understands well the power of media influence and has placed a high priority on acquiring it, but he has also demonstrated an understanding of its subtlety. While he is not the outright owner of any media outlet of note, his influence extends to over 30 major news organizations and, according to the Business and Media Institute of the Media Research Center has included funding of over $48 million. Vehicles for this influence include groups such as ProPublica, Media Matters, The Center for Public Integrity, The Center for Investigative Reporting, The Columbia Journalism Review, the Organization of News Ombudsmen and the Investigative News Network.
Adelson is an American patriot and is certainly no fool, but his approach is at times more impulsive and gung ho. His most ambitious political projects were risky and are now largely defunct or close to it, most notably the advocacy group Freedom Watch founded to counter the influence of Soros and others, and the current presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich. When asked by Forbes about his political plans should Gingrich’s campaign fail he said, “I just haven’t decided that yet and will wait to see what happens,” further indicative of his lack of strategic planning.
A champion of America’s pro-Israel community his philanthropic successes include the founding of the pivotal Birthright Israel program, the building of an educational campus in Las Vegas and investments in medical research. He owns the most circulated Israeli daily Israel Hayom but has no media interests in the United States. To put things in perspective, the world’s most read online news outlet, the Huffington Post was founded and financed to the point of its sale to AOL with less capital than Adelson has donated to super PACs so far this season. In truth Adelson is a newcomer to a game Soros has been playing for over 30 years.
The super PAC option is an investment in firepower, a shock and awe, short term strategy. Soros however understands the long term viability and effectiveness of building a well networked ‘insurgency.’
If Adelson is to be potent in his efforts to counterbalance Soros’ meddling, he needs to consider a radical remaking of his strategy. First and foremost he would do well to seek and employ the assistance of those able partners and capable foot soldiers that share his ideals and have walked the road before him. Grassroots groups would unite behind his infectious bravado and he can leverage his giving to direct their efforts in concert. Together with additional investment in cutting edge media platforms, watchdogs and journalism programs he would be well on the way to establishing a lasting infrastructure of inspired influence.
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