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Why Sheldon Adelson's foreign ties are reason for concern

Posted by Rob Anderson  January 10, 2012 07:20 PM

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It would be hard for Mitt Romney to complain about forthcoming TV attack ads that Newt Gingrich's super PAC, Winning the Future, is preparing to run in South Carolina against the Republican front runner. After all, Romney at one point got so carried away with enthusiasm for the Supreme Court's authorizing of super PACs funded by anonymous, undisclosed donors that he gushed at one campaign event that corporations are persons. And since Romney has already seen a super PAC in his corner bludgeon Gingrich with devastating attack ads in Iowa, the erstwhile Massachusetts governor cannot afford to deny the old American dictum that turnabout is fair play.

Still, Romney would have a point if he did lodge a claim of foul against the forthcoming TV spots that castigate him for destroying jobs while he headed Bain Capital. The money for those ads is coming from the the casino mogul, Sheldon Adelson, whose gambling and resort palaces in Las Vegas and Macao have made him one of the richest billionaires in the world. Adelson donates to various philanthropies and political causes; that is his right. But his highly publicized ties to foreign governments and politicians raise questions that the Supreme Court majority ought to have pondered deeply before opening the floodgates to the unlimited anonymous funding of super PACs.

Adelson makes no secret of his closeness to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The gambling czar founded a paper, Israel Yahom, that is distributed free in Israel and serves as an unapologetic booster of the Likud leader. Adelson had also waged a campaign against the previous Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, because of Olmert's pursuit of negotiations with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, talks that were meant to produce a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Adelson is fiercely opposed to a peace based on two states for the two peoples.

But Adelson's foreign ties are not confined to Israel. His lucrative casino and resort business in Macao means that he owes a debt of gratitude to the leaders of mainland China who conferred that concession on him. Indeed, he has had to deny having asked former House speaker Tom DeLay to kill a congressional resolution that opposed China's bid for the 2008 Olympics because of that regime's human rights abuses.

Here's the problem Romney has a right to yelp about: The Supreme Court has opened America's electoral campaigns not only to the democracy-distorting caprices of millionaires and billionaires, but also to the potential for foreign manipulation of our elections. Romney may seem the most heavily programmed of the Republicans campaigning for the White House, but in this race it is his bitter foe, Newt Gingrich, who could turn out to be the real Manchurian Candidate.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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