Strange BFFs

Harry Reid’s Curious Soft Spot for Sheldon Adelson

The Senate Majority Leader has been blasting the Koch brothers and their mega-donations. Just don’t pick on his home-state casino magnate.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid takes regular swipes at multibillionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, but Nevada’s top political figure hasn’t mustered a whisper of protest for a Republican mega-donor standing in his own front yard: outspoken casino king Sheldon Adelson.

It turns out the two are friends—at least that’s how Adelson described their relationship Monday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas during an hourlong chat as part of the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration’s “Conversations on Being Successful” series.

With approximately 1,000 students and others filling Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall, Adelson held forth on his business philosophy and rise to power as a casino titan. When the topic briefly turned to partisan politics, staunch Republican Adelson raised eyebrows when he expressed affection and respect for Reid.

“Believe it or not, I’m a Republican but I’m still very friendly with Harry Reid,” Adelson said, adding that he had “great respect” for the Senate majority leader.

That respect, of course, hasn’t kept Adelson from dumping approximately $100 million into the unsuccessful Republican presidential campaigns of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

In an interview this week with MSNBC, Reid attempted to separate his disdain for the Kochs from his affection for Adelson.

“I know Sheldon Adelson,” Reid said. “He’s not in this for money… He’s in it because he has certain ideological views. Sheldon Adelson’s social views are in keeping with the Democrats on all kinds of things. So Sheldon Adelson, don’t pick on him. He’s not in it to make money.”

If Reid treats Adelson with kid gloves, the Kochs haven’t been as lucky. In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday following the release of a report on the effects of global warming, Reid said, “Charles and David Koch are waging a war against anything that protects the environment. Now I know that sounds absurd, but it’s true,” he said. “These two billionaire oil barons are actively campaigning now, spending tons of money against anything that seeks to curb pollution, limit our dependence on fossil fuels, or lower our energy costs for working families.”

In one of several media blasts last month, Reid chided, “The Koch brothers are trying to use their immense wealth to buy their way around the laws and regulations of this nation to make themselves even richer. Because for them, being fourth and fifth on the list of the world’s richest people isn’t enough. Here’s the rules they play by: They should be allowed to say false and misleading things about Obamacare, but we’re not allowed to criticize them for it.”

When asked recently why the senator appears to have been so hesitant to criticize Adelson, a Reid spokesperson said the Kochs were a special case. They were funding misleading attack ads.

Not that Adelson’s money hasn’t helped fund third-party attacks of dubious accuracy on Democrats. You would think Adelson, with his gargantuan donations to GOP presidential candidates and down-ticket political players, his staunch opposition to the Reid-supported legalization of Internet gaming and the casino titan’s nutty talk about nuking Iran, would at least rate a mention from the powerhouse senator.

Not a peep.

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But there’s still time for Reid to find his voice.

Adelson, 80, says he plans to be even more politically active in future campaigns, and is willing to spend “whatever it takes” to see the Republicans prevail.

Does that mean Adelson might contribute to his friend Harry’s 2016 opponent?

Don’t bet on it.