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Sheldon Adelson's $100 Million Union Bust

By Francis Wilkinson
December 05, 2012 9:45 AM EST

Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., spent about $100 million to defeat Democrats and elect Republicans over the past year. As the upcoming inauguration of President Barack Obama confirms, it didn't do much good.

Adelson donated millions to Newt Gingrich's ego in the Republican primary, then switched his allegiance to Mitt Romney's cause, donating $20 million to the biggest Romney super-PAC, Restore Our Future, which with just three words and $142 million managed to capture both the futility and incoherence of the Republican Party circa 2012.

Adelson gave to so many Republican, conservative and right-wing groups it's a wonder he can keep track. Perhaps he can't. Here is what he told the Wall Street Journal about his political views:

"We're pro-abortion rights, pro stem cell research," said Mr. Adelson. He also favors the Dream Act, a law that would allow some illegal immigrants to attain legal status. As for health care, he said, "I'm in favor of a socialized-like health care," similar to the system in Israel. ...  Mr. Adelson ... noted that some of his beliefs are at odds with GOP policy.

Yes, some are. So what drives a pro-choice, socialized-health-care loving billionaire into the arms of the Republican Party? (Did I forget to mention Adelson's "company-wide initiative to make our resorts the most eco-friendly in our industry.") There are many possibilities, including an Obama Justice Department investigation into Adelson's company, and his conservative views on Israel. But the Journal reports that Adelson's opposition to unions is what "divides Mr. Adelson from the Democratic Party."

So Adelson spent $100 million on electoral politics because he doesn't want to deal with unionized workers? That seems a tad inefficient, doesn't it? If Adelson wanted to keep unions at bay, he could just as easily have given every one of his 40,000 workers a $2,500 bonus this year instead of frittering away $100 million on failed political campaigns espousing beliefs he says he does not share.

Either something else contributes to Sheldon Adelson's political behavior, or he's one boss who really, really, really hates unions and really, really, really wastes a lot of money showing it.

(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board. Follow him on Twitter.)

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