Ryan climbs aboard Romney's wheel of fortune
Paul Ryan dutifully went to Las Vegas to honour a casino-owning key donor, writes LARA MARLOWEin Washington
WITH ITS ersatz Piazza San Marco, canals and stripe-shirted gondoliers, slot machines and scantily clad women, the Sands Venetian Casino in Las Vegas seemed an unlikely destination for a politician who built his career on fiscal and moral sobriety, just three days after Congressman Paul Ryan was chosen as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential running mate.
But politics makes strange bedfellows and Ryan dutifully trekked to Sin City to pay obeisance to Sheldon Adelson and other wealthy Republican donors on Tuesday night.
Adelson (79) owns two huge hotel-casinos in Las Vegas, four more in the Chinese enclave of Macau, and has ambitions to build a new Las Vegas in Spain.
He and his wife, Miriam, are the single largest donors to the 2012 presidential campaign, having given $15 million to the failed Republican candidate Newt Gingrich last winter, then $20 million to the Romney campaign in June.
Adelson, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes magazine at $25 billion, has long fought labour unions, a cause also dear to Ryan.
While guests bound for the get-to-know-Paul-Ryan cocktail were spirited into a guarded lift to a luxury suite, hundreds of trade unionists marched in a circle around the fountain in front of the hotel, shouting “Ryan, go home!” and brandishing placards saying “Romney-Ryan: Pathway to Poverty!” and “Paul Ryan: Hustling for the 1 per cent”.
Adelson embodies the unbridled power of money in US politics, since the Supreme Court’s 2010 “Citizens United” decision allowed limitless contributions by corporations to “Super PACs” (political action committees) which maintain only the slightest pretence of distance from presidential candidates.
The three things he cares most about, Adelson has told friends, are family, Israel and gambling – in that order.
He owns a free newspaper that helped bring prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to power in Israel. Despite Barack Obama’s pro-Israel policies, Adelson believes the president is hostile to Israel and says he is willing to spend up to $100 million to defeat him in November.
Adelson bonded with then Speaker of the House Gingrich back in 1995, over a Bill requiring the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Gingrich further ingratiated himself with the casino king through vocal opposition to the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” and by advocating a US pre-emptive strike against Iran.
When Gingrich called the Palestinians “an invented people” last December, Adelson told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: “Read the history of those who call themselves Palestinians and you will hear why Gingrich said recently that the Palestinians are invented people.”