Self-made Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Investigated by Justice Department

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

At the center of this election season's explosion of vast donations of cash is Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate who owns hotels in Las Vegas and Macau and has donated tens of millions of dollars to the Republican presidential campaign.

Investigations by both federal and Nevada authorities are looking into whether Adelson’s company, Las Vegas Sands, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act with their casino in China. Both investigations are ongoing, but investigative journalism non-profit ProPublica obtained emails from within the company that shed light on events leading to the investigation, according to its managing editor Stephen Engelberg.

"What happened in this case is that the casino, Las Vegas Sands, hired a man named Leonel Alves, who was both a legislator and advisor to the chief executive of Macau as their local lawyer," Engelberg says. "He helped them solve some very serious problems that they were having." Alves applied "pressure" to local planning officials to settle some real estate issues that Adelson's company was having. 

The payment of a government official in exchange for services is a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. There was internal dissent as to the legality of hiring Alves, but the dissenters did not last long within the company. "Everybody who said that who we can track down within the company was subsequently either fired or resigned," Engelberg says. 

Adelson and his wife, Miriam, accounted for around half of the $20 million raised last month by Restore Our Future, the super PAC that supports Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. The billionaire is also a heavy contributor to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Adelson is of Jewish descent and bankrolls Birthright, a program which allows Jewish youth to travel to Israel.

"Our current campaign finance laws allow him to give unlimited amounts of money to these PACs and super PACs that support the candidates that he likes," Engelberg says. If Romney were elected, he would possibly be placed into an unprecedented situation — prosecuting one of the most important donors to his campaign. "The new president and his attorney general would have to decide what to do with recommendations about that case, which I think will come well into the next administration," Engelberg says. 


Stephen Engelberg

Hosted by:

Celeste Headlee and John Hockenberry

Produced by:

Robert Balint

Comments [4]

Larry Fisher

Sheldon is so old school. Did Scorsese make a movie about him, or was that some other self made man

Jul. 18 2012 11:28 PM

I'm not sure I understand Charles point re a "donation". All donations are not tax deductible, that is not what makes a gift a "donation". It seems to me, a donation is a contribution that is given to someone or an organization with no expectation as to exactly how the contribution will be used or spent. Whether it is called a "gift", "contribution", or a "donation", it seems like it is all the same. Possibly you could clarify this "Charles" and exactly why this vocabulary is so important.

Jul. 18 2012 05:18 PM

Celeste Headlee mentioned that the Newt Gingrich campaign "remained afloat thanks to a $25 million donation" from Sheldon Adleson.

That's a flatly incorrect statement; Adelson did not donate that amount to the Gingrich campaign; because campaign donations are limited. What Adelson did was to give money to the Gingrich-supporting Super PAC, Winning Our Future. It is not a "donation" in any sense of being tax-deductible (it was not). In other words, Sheldon Adleson spent his own post-tax dollars on a political message that he supported. All of that money was duly reported in terms of what was given and how it was spent, under standard FEC provisions.

Mr. Engleberg repeated the error when he speculated about a future in which a President Romney might be the President overseeing a justice Department that is investigating a man "who had donated ... millions of dollars..."

This wouldn't be such a big deal, except that it is an error that is repeated dozens of times every day on public radio. With the end result being that public radio listeners are badly misinformed about basic campaign finance law following the Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United v. FEC.

Jul. 18 2012 11:29 AM

WOW ! ! !

The ultimate corruption. Using government to go after your political enemies. Would Adelson be under investigated had his millions gone to Obama. Both parties are corrupt and this is a classic example of abuse of power. Even more vile is how Headlee does not even touch on that glaring aspect of the story..

Jul. 18 2012 10:20 AM

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