Thursday’s conference at The Venetian in Vegas is technically called the “Republican Jewish Coalition Spring Leadership Meeting,” but the GOP presidential hopefuls on the guest list know it’s really Sheldon Adelson’s party.
The Las Vegas Sands Inc. chairman and GOP mega-donor is a member of the group’s board of directors.
The four-day affair begins with a VIP dinner at Adelson’s private hangar at McCarran Airport with featured speaker former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is weighing a possible White House run. Bush will undoubtedly benefit from plenty of face time with Adelson, who dumped nearly $100 million into the Republicans’ unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign.
Although there are always rumors the XX-year-old Adelson’s health is deteriorating, he remains a key figure in helping to finance the GOP’s next attempt at winning the nation’s highest office. While some RJC members and Republican donors will undoubtedly take advantage of the conference’s scheduled poker and golf tournaments, and even a top-shelf Scotch tasting, the real players will be courting the pugnacious gambling titan, whose successful casino interests in Macau and Singapore have helped drive his personal wealth to $37.9 billion as reported by Bloomberg.
Andy Abboud, Adelson’s political adviser, told The Washington Post, “The bar for support is going to be much higher. There’s going to be a lot more scrutiny.”
With Chris Christie’s future clouded by the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal, Adelson’s allies say he’s now more fully focused on the prospects of a Jeb Bush candidacy. But whoever catches Adelson’s eye will have access to a fellow who, with wife Miriam Adelson, threw $15 million into a pro-New Gingrich super PAC in 2012 and at least $30 million more into a Mitt Romney super PAC once he broke away from the primary.
Thanks to Adelson’s track record as a deep pockets donor in the Citizens United age, the RJC has dramatically increased its profile as a vigorous supporter of Israel and what it calls “Freedom from Oil Dependence.”
In fact, Adelson is not distracted by the typical social issues that much of the Republican Party obsess over, which is what makes him so appealing. In keeping with Adelson’s own ideals, the RJC goes out of its way to downplay its position on the likes of abortion, gay rights, gun control, global warming.
“The RJC membership and Board of Directors are as divided as the rest of America on these issues,” the group states on its website. “The RJC recognizes that many good people hold opposing views on these matters and we respect the differences of opinion among our membership. Despite those differences, we are united on the issues of national security, small government and economic policy because they provide the foundation of freedom that allows those debates to continue.”
Although the airport hangar soiree isn’t open to the media, the presence of so many Republican power players in one place (other speakers at the conference will include former Vice President Dick Cheney, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer) would appear to have achieved precisely what Adelson intended: a concerted focus on his role as a substantial money man in the 2016 race.
And, as usual, the mega-billionaire is expected to pick up the tab.