In the closing days of 2011, as Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s campaign was floundering in Iowa, a longtime supporter and friend came to the rescue. The billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, each donated $5 million to a pro-Gingrich super PAC (political action committee) that gave new life to the former speaker’s efforts and may have helped set the stage for his subsequent victory in the South Carolina primary.
Adelson’s intervention in the race was widely lambasted in the press as the direct result of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision two years ago. That decision reaffirmed the right of groups and corporations to unlimited political speech. But for all the huffing and puffing about the businessman’s effrontery in seeking to back a candidate and the ideas he liked, the real story was the motivation for the donations. Adelson is a passionate supporter of the state of Israel and had come to like and admire Gingrich specifically because of the candidate’s record on the Jewish state. It mattered not at all that when it came to unstinting support for the alliance with Israel, there was little if any difference between Gingrich and Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum, the other major Republican candidates still standing. Adelson believed Gingrich’s ardent advocacy for Israel over the course of his political career, which appears to be the basis for the relationship between the two men, justified his generosity.