The Merchant of Vegas

In the early 1920s, The Dearborn Independent, a Henry Ford-owned newspaper with a circulation of 700,000, ran a series of anti-Semitic articles.  The venomous pieces were eventually collated and printed in a four-volume anthology entitled The International Jew, which repeated racist tropes about Jews being malicious schemers plotting worldwide domination.  "If there is one quality that attracts Jews, it is power," the anthology stated.  "Wherever the seat of power may be, thither they swarm obsequiously."

The specter of the cunning Shylock hell-bent on his own self-aggrandizement is something of a cultural meme going back millennia.  Jews, it seems, can do little to counter the enduring stereotype.  Regrettably, though, a prominent Jew occasionally emerges who fits it to a tee.

Behold Sheldon Adelson.  Forbes seventh richest American with a $25 billion net worth, Adelson is chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which runs the kitschy Venetian hotel and casino, a faux Venice complete with a mini-St. Marks Square and canals, along with subsidiaries in Singapore and Macau, China.  Adelson has come to prominence as a major Republican donor, having practically single-handedly bankrolled Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign with $20 million in contributions.  More recently, the fiercely anti-union casino tycoon pledged $100 million to unseat President Obama, who he accuses of imposing a “socialist-style economy.”

But perhaps Adelson’s singular passion is Israel.  In addition to generously supporting various laudable initiatives like the “birthright” program that finances visits to Israel by young Jews, Adelson also owns the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, whose rightist views reflect his own: Adelson called a Palestinian state a “steppingstone for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people” and the Palestinian prime minister a terrorist.  He also applauded Gingrich’s offensive assertion that Palestinians are an “invented people” and broke with the hawkish American Israel Public Affairs Committee for not being hawkish enough by supporting US bilateral assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

Then there’s Adelson’s physique.  With two dark eyes that peer out from a fleshy face and ostentatiously orange-painted hair on his balding pate, the 79-year old Adelson looks like the swarthy gnome who Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels would’ve cast as the perfidious Jew.  Of course, Adelson can’t be held responsible for his looks.  Nor would it be fair to suggest that his advocacy of reactionary causes and leaders somehow reinforces anti-Semitism, as any prominent Jew involved in public life risks confirming for bigots the Jew-as-Svengali stereotype.  

Take George Soros.  The wealthy financier and liberal philanthropist was portrayed Goebbels–like by conservative crank Glenn Beck on—what else?—Fox News as a “Puppet Master” with “tentacles everywhere.”  In a series of segments, Beck accused Soros of international intrigue—instigating the overthrow of foreign regimes, destroying the American economy, promoting “One World Government,” etc.—in what columnist Michelle Goldberg called an “updated Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” referencing the early twentieth century forgery describing Jewish plans for global domination.

But whatever malfeasance one attributes to Soros, nobody claims he benefits financially from his patronage, including his support for liberal politicians.  Indeed, given the GOP’s dogged determination to reward the rich at every turn, Soros’ monetary interests would be much better served by backing Republicans, not Democrats.  Adelson, by contrast, has particularly compelling financial reasons to sponsor Republicans.  Moreover, Soros isn’t suspected of legal wrongdoing; Adelson is.

Adelson’s economic motives for his political advocacy are clear: the Las Vegas Sands’ pays just 9.8 percent in corporate taxes, not the statutory 35 percent, largely because it exploits lower tax rates on its ample foreign earnings—including a zero percent tax rate in socialist China!  Obama wants to end the deductions and credits that allow American companies to shelter their overseas profits, an effort that has been stymied by the GOP.  It doesn’t require great insight to surmise what position President Romney would likely take on this matter of great monetary concern to his largest benefactor.

But Adelson has even more important reasons to seek a change of administrations.  Obama’s Justice Department is conducting two simultaneous investigations of Las Vegas Sands: the first for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Acts for allegedly bribing Chinese officials to expand its operations in Macau, and the second a joint probe with the Securities Exchange Commission regarding potential violations of separate anti-bribery laws.  (The US attorney’s office in Los Angeles is also looking into charges that the Las Vegas Sands engaged in massive money laundering).  A Romney-run Justice Department might well view the allegations very differently.

All people of good conscience should be horrified by the power and influence of such a vile individual as Adelson.  But we can be fairly confident that at least one person would be delighted with the prominence of a Jew who reinforces the very worst stereotypes of his own people: Henry Ford.

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