“Follow the money.” –’Deep Throat‘, All The President’s Men
Mitt Romney has a gambling problem.
Las Vegas Sands casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has donated at least $36 million to Romney and his Super PACs. He has signaled that his support is “limitless” and could top $100 million if necessary.
As a man worth around $25 billion, Adelson is clearly a shrewd investor, but how is this a good investment for him? It’s not about lower taxes. Adelson has actually done quite well during Obama’s presidency.
“Just three years ago Adelson’s empire was facing default, and FORBES estimated that his net worth plunged from $28 billion to about $3 billion. Since then he’s made almost all of it back—Sands’ stock is up 3,700%, and Adelson’s net worth has rebounded to $25 billion, again making him one of the ten richest people in America.”
He made his fortune back because his casinos in Macao paid off big time in the last three years. But the beginnings of his investments are shrouded in mysterious international political and business intrigue.
The Chinese Connection
While he was visiting China in 2001 to investigate the possibilities of building hotels in Macao, the mayor of Beijing allegedly told Adelson he was worried about a bill pending in the US Congress. The bill would have announced Congress’ opposition to Beijing as a host for the Olympic Games due to China’s human rights record. Adelson allegedly called Tom Delay (who was later convicted of money laundering for moving corporate money to political candidates). Delay allegedly called back a few hours later and told Adelson,
“you tell your mayor that he can be assured that this bill will never see the light of day.”
The bill stalled in Congress, China was appointed to host the 2008 Olympics, and shortly thereafter, Adelson was awarded a massive contract worth $12 billion for four casinos in Macao, becoming
“likely the largest foreign investor in China—ever.”
A few years ago, Adelson’s investments in Macao were tanking. How they turned around and began to bear such lush fruit is the subject of investigation. The Justice Department, the Securities Exchange Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating whether Adelson violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The 1977 Act stipulates that American businesses operating overseas must adhere to American anti-corruption regulations, and it particularly bars them from bribing foreign officials.
“describe how Sands executives have gone over the heads of Macau politicians to lobby ranking members of China’s politburo, much to the chagrin of the locals.”
This allegedly ran counter to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and China’s regulations requiring foreign businesses to deal directly with Macao officials. In response, Adelson built a massive $100 million nonprofit organization in Beijing to facilitate business outreach.
Enter the Dragon
The Justice/SEC/FBI investigation centers around the testimony of former Sands Macao executive Steve Jacobs, who
“has alleged that Adelson ordered him to keep quiet about sensitive issues at the Sands casinos on the Chinese island of Macau, including the casinos’ alleged ‘involvement with Chinese organized crime groups, known as Triads, connected to the junket business.’”
According to Matt Isaacs’s extensive report on Reuters, Jacobs has testified
“that he was repeatedly threatened with termination if he ‘objected to and/or refused to carry out Adelson’s illegal demands.’”
Isaacs reports that
“U.S. diplomats and the Chinese government share the concerns raised by Jacobs about Macau’s booming junkets industry, which they describe as rife with organized crime.”
The Chinese government is becoming increasingly worried about the alleged Triads connections to junket operators in Macao and their high-roller mainland clients who
“are betting with embezzled state money or proceeds from official corruption, and substantial portions of these funds are flowing on to organized crimes groups in mainland China, if not Macau itself.”
Isaacs reports that Jacobs also alleged that Adelson ordered him to look into possibilities for blackmailing local officials,
“Adelson, Jacobs charged, instructed him to secretly investigate senior Macau government officials. ‘Any negative information could be used to exert ‘leverage’ in order to thwart government regulations/initiatives,’ the lawsuit claims.”
Isaacs also reports that the casino employed a highly placed local manager who was an alleged crime boss and an alleged murder conspiracy ringleader:
“Last year, Reuters published a report on a man named Cheung Chi-tai, described in court testimony as the mastermind behind a plot to murder a dealer suspected of cheating.
“At trial a witness identified Cheung as a leader of the Wo Hop To — one of the largest triads in Hong Kong.
“Cheung was also, according to witness testimony, ‘the person in charge’ of a VIP room at the Sands Macao, and Hong Kong stock exchange filings showed him to be a ‘substantial shareholder’ in a junket company with ties to the cloistered room.
“The allegations emerged in a routine trial, barely noted beyond the crime pages of Hong Kong newspapers. Yet the revelations were historic: this was one of the first documented examples of an alleged criminal figure financially linked to a U.S.-based, publicly traded casino.”
Jacobs’ testimony paints a picture of Adelson aggressively doing absolutely whatever it took regardless of any law or ethical norm in any country, to pull his casinos out of the red and into the black.
The Big Boss
Adelson has responded to Jacobs’ allegations by telling a reporter,
“We will go after him in a way that he won’t forget…”
Adelson has not been convicted of anything. But if there is no substance to the allegations as he insists, then by underwriting Romney’s campaign with whopping sums, he is making the worst investment of his storied career.
In June, around the same time that Adelson was writing a check with 8 digits to Mitt, Romney told Bob Schieffer
“I want to make it very clear that in my administration, government will see itself as the friend of enterprise…”
What kind of “friend” would a man like Sheldon Adelson want in the White House? Adelson and Romney are both shrewd businessmen. His unprecedented largesse indicates that Adelson wants to be the chief stakeholder of the Romney Administration. Implicitly, Romney will give Adelson a good return on his investment. A Romney Justice Department might just discover that there are far more pressing matters to attend to than what may or may not have happened in Macao. Such matters may include the plague of voters without ID cards in inner city districts in Democratic-leaning swing states.
Assume for a moment that none of the allegations have any merit whatsoever. Even so, Adelson’s donations would have been wildly illegal even two years ago. They are the most staggering example to date of the flood of corporate money that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. FEC ruling unleashed upon the electoral process in 2010. Singlehandedly bankrolling a presidential campaign is a form of legalized bribery. And if Adelson doesn’t bat an eye at buying a presidential candidate, then what other shady practices has he allegedly not balked at?
Now imagine that the allegations have merit. If true, Romney’s campaign is taking the country by the nose, tumbling down a nightmarish rabbit hole into a Wonderland of unending corruption. If we connect the dots, Mitt Romney’s campaign is allegedly funded by state corruption in China, handed off by the Chinese mafia, to an aggressive and shady casino corporation, donated by its magnate, with the implicit purpose of getting him off the hook for the alleged preceding sequence of exchanges. That is NOT democracy.
This must not continue. Romney must return every penny of Sheldon Adelson’s money. Whether he wins or loses, the future of our Republic and the life of our Democracy depend on it. If you agree, share this on Facebook and Twitter.