The death of Sheldon Adelson who died at age 87 on Monday is another crippling blow to the Republican Party at a time when they need every friend they can get.
Adelson was not just a casino mogul. He and his wife Miriam backed Republicans to the tune of $172 million in 2020 alone. He was the biggest GOP fundraising asset the party had and now that he’s gone, Republicans are noticing how irreplaceable he was.
The state of Israel also suffered a loss with Adelson’s passing. The casino magnate donated a large chunk of his fortune to causes associated with the Jewish state and was an outspoken opponent of the BDS movement.
But it was in conservative politics that Adelson made his biggest impact, A staffer for the National Republican Senatorial Committee said, “We’ve always relied on Adelson. When he’s gone, it’s all over.”
Not quite “over” but his passing leaves a gigantic hole to be filled.
From 2019 to 2020, the couple donated nearly $220 million to various GOP politicians and political action committees, making them the largest individual donors in the country. In second place was Michael Bloomberg, who gave more than $152 million to various Democratic causes.
Adelson leaves behind a fortune with an estimated worth of anywhere between $33 billion to nearly $40 billion, thanks to his sprawling casino empire. Much of that will be allocated to his wife, although U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings from him reveal that he’s given at least $8 billion to his family since 2013 by exploiting an Internal Revenue Service loophole that allows individuals to avoid paying estate taxes on large inheritances.
There is some speculation that Miriam Adelson would continue Sheldon’s political activities. Mrs. Adelson is an accomplished woman — a doctor, newspaper publisher, and a strong advocate for Israel. Is she as committed to the Republican Party as her husband? It’s impossible to say.
Whether Republican candidates decide to move on from the Adelsons altogether or begin cultivating deeper relationships with his wife and five children is a question sure to dominate internal discussions by GOP consultants and politicians in the coming months. Adelson is survived by five children, two of whom are in their early 20s.
All five of Adelson’s heirs are registered Republicans, and his wife has been credited with influencing Sheldon’s political views, particularly on backing hard-right Israeli politicians. Miriam Adelson served as a finance vice chairwoman for Trump’s inauguration in 2017 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Trump in 2018. In October 2020, the Adelsons gave a last-minute $75 million cash infusion to a pro-Trump PAC after reports that the Trump campaign was rapidly falling behind Biden in television ad spending.
With recent events in mind, many of the party’s biggest donors are backing away. It probably isn’t a permanent break. After all, where else are these whales going to put the bulk of their cash? Bernie Sanders? Not likely. But some of them may begin to hedge their bets and donate to the few remaining “moderate” Democrats. This is what the Koch brothers began to do as well as the Chamber of Commerce, another large source for Republican cash.
The Republican brand has become toxic to all but the most committed donors. But once these whales get an idea of how bad the Biden administration is going to be, they may have a change of heart.