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Freedom isn’t free, y’know

This is Democracy and unbridled freedom of speech as currently evolved in the greatest country in the history of Planet Earth.

The eighth richest person in America (Sheldon Adelson of the Las Vegas Sands) wrote a $5 million check the other day to the SuperPAC supporting Newt Gingrich, just in time for the carpet bombing of the South Carolina airwaves with ads attacking Mitt Romney. (I thought this one, a two-minute compendium of Romney’s worst caught-on-tape moments designed make Republicans fearful of what the Obama campaign will be able to use against Romney was fairly effective.)

That’s a pretty big check, and jumps Adelson to the top of the 20-biggest-donors-of-the-cycle-so-far list that Mother Jones is now compiling. (Abelson is a long-time friend and admirer of Gingrich. An anonymous friend of Adelson’s told my buddy Tom Hamburger that the check had something to do with Gingrich’s devotion to Israel, although Romney also portrays himself as a reliable friend of Israel.)

The number two biggest donor on Mother Jones’ list is Bob Perry of Houston, a homebuilder who has given mostly to the SuperPAC created by Karl Rove and others. Perry has given $3.33 million so far this cycle. He also contributes heavily to the campaigns of every member of the Texas Supreme Court. By pure happenstance, the Texas Supremes twice rejected trial verdicts ordering him to pay damages for building a defective home (and refusing to fix it). Perry kept refusing to pay and the verdicts kept getting bigger. He ultimately was ordered to pay $51 million.

Number three is Jeffrey Katzenberg, formerly of the Disney Company. He has given $2 million to the pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA Action. But he is one of only three of the top 20 who has given to Dems, says Mother Jones ,although perhaps that ratio will change once the Obama campaign gets more fully engaged. Ten of the top 20 have given to groups that support Mitt Romney.

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Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by dan buechler on 01/12/2012 - 04:30 pm.

    And the benefit goes to the television stations, the cable providers and where else does this money go?

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/12/2012 - 04:58 pm.

    There is very good reason why Adelson, as a very BIG supporter of Israel and Holocaust museums, will NOT support a Mormon candidate–it’s the posthumous baptism of Holocaust victims and other Jews into the Mormon faith. See:

    Which brings up an interesting question:

    If a candidate believes that it is the right and duty of their religion to baptize you and your relatives (if not alive, then when you’re dead) into their faith–does he truly support freedom of religion and beliefs?

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/12/2012 - 06:53 pm.

    If Mormons do not question your right to -practice- the religion of your choice, then they are not violating your freedom of religion.
    The Constitutional right to freedom of religion in fact refers to the actions of the state, not private individuals.
    One could take objection to their making public the names of people that they have baptized, but this would be a different issue from freedom of religious practice — more like libel.

  4. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/12/2012 - 06:54 pm.

    “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

  5. Submitted by Thomas Eckhardt on 01/12/2012 - 10:01 pm.

    My problem (one of them) with Romney is that if you’ve ever lived in Utah then you know that they don’t really believe in separation of Church and State.

  6. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 01/12/2012 - 10:52 pm.

    I’m finding it tough to get outraged over this for at least two reasons. First, if I was hyper wealthy (c’mon Powerball!) then I wouldn’t mind spending some of that to encourage policies that I support. I don’t, for example, mind when people donate money to encourage gay marriage. And I realize that since other people disagree with me on various issues that there will be money spent opposing things that I support. So be it.
    And secondly, I’d rather have wealthy people giving money to others and have them run. Right now we have a system where non-millionaires are under a huge disadvantage. In effect we have created a congressional oligarchy. Wouldn’t we be better off with more Wellstones and fewer Frankens and Daytons?

  7. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/13/2012 - 08:00 am.

    Paul, if a religion makes it their right and duty to change your religion to theirs after you die(as bizarre a concept that is to me), obviously it is not a ringing endorsement of the right to practice the religion of your choice.

    Gotcha’ now, or gotcha’ later!

    What that means for policy, who knows?

  8. Submitted by Rich Crose on 01/13/2012 - 08:25 am.

    The show “Your Hit Parade” ended with the auction phrase, “Sold, American.” The phrase keeps coming back whenever I read about Super PACs.

  9. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/13/2012 - 10:33 am.


    They can’t change my religion, only what they say about it. As I pointed out, lying about someone is a different issue from interfering with religious practice.
    Most religions try to proselytize at one level or another; the Mormons are not unique in this sense.


    Actually, the phrase ‘Sold to American’ was the end of a cigarette commercial (Lucky Strike, I believe).


    The issue is transparency.
    Paul Wellstone of blessed memory just barely got elected. Today, with super PACs, I doubt if the green bus would do it.
    The answer is true public financing of elections, which means reversing the Roberts Court Citizens United decision which allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in support of candidates (or, these days, attacking their opponents) without revealing the source of their money.

  10. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 01/13/2012 - 10:39 am.

    Neal, if someone wants to try to get me into heaven without my knowledge or permission, I’ll simply shrug my shoulders and go on with my life. If they’re right in their theology, then they’ve given me a benefit. If they’re wrong, there is still no harm and all of the effort has been on their part. I might find it distasteful but it in no way changes my religion or hampers my choice of religious practice.
    And frankly, the attempt to tar Romney with the actions of other Mormons is wrong. It would be just as wrong to hold the actions of Obama’s father against him.

  11. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/13/2012 - 11:04 am.

    Peder, obviously it makes a greater difference to some people than others, such as Adelson.

    By the way, Romney was a bishop in the Mormon church, not just a guy in the pews. Perhaps a little more responsibility and awareness for the man in the pulpit, rather than the man in the pew.

  12. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/13/2012 - 11:06 am.

    Paul, usually when you “slip the surly bonds”, you are left alone.

  13. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 01/13/2012 - 12:22 pm.

    Paul #9, can you point to a country that uses public financing that has improved their political situation somehow? I’m honestly ignorant on this point so I’m asking for information.
    I’m skeptical that any real solution involves taking away the ability of people (even rich ones!) to make their opinions known. Especially since the restrictions won’t just stay with the rich. A good friend of mine is a struggling independent film creator. If she wanted to make a film about some political subject should she really be confined in terms of how and when she can release it? That seems crazy to me!

  14. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/13/2012 - 03:46 pm.


    Your first point is a bit vague — “uses public financing that has improved their political situation” could be interpreted in many ways. It seems to work well in Western Europe. Certainly their voter turnout is higher, with no more indication of fraud than there is here.
    Russia and the former Soviet republics, on the other hand, are a good case of the effects of unbridled capitalism on the political process.

    I don’t see anyone taking away anyone’s ability to make -their- opinions known. The objection to Citizens United it it allows corporations to finance political statements anonymously by setting up dummy corporations.

    I don’t see anyone proposing anything that would limit what your friend the filmmaker could produce and distribute. The only limitation would be that someone who paid her to make a political film would not be able to do it anonymously; she’d have to reveal the source of her funding if she referred to specific candidates for office. If she were simply making a documentary about a political issue without referring to individuals, even that would not apply.

    You’re riding a straw horse again. No wonder it seems crazy.

  15. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 01/13/2012 - 08:50 pm.

    The top 5 donors to the presidential candidates:

    According to Monies did not come from companies themselves, but from the companies’ PACs, employees, and/or owners.

    Obama’s top 5:
    1) Microsoft, 2) Comcast, 3) Harvard, 4) Google, 5) University of CA

    Romney’s top 5:
    1) Goldman Sachs, 2) Credit Suisse, 3) Morgan Stanley, 4) HIG Capital, 5) Barclays

    We all want the best democracy that money can buy.

  16. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 01/14/2012 - 08:15 am.

    Paul #14, McCain-Feingold prohibited broadcasts that mentioned a candidate near elections. This seems like an obvious violation of the first amendment, doesn’t it?

  17. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/15/2012 - 01:07 pm.


    The Cato Institute certainly thinks so.
    However, the Supremes have never held the First Amendment to be an absolute right not subject to considerations of the other amendments (the order of the amendments is not one of legal precedence).

    Note that McCain-Feingold ( actually H.R. 2356—introduced by Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT)) does not directly limit expression; it limits funding. You can freely assemble and express your opinion; there are limits on how and how much money can be raised, particularly by third party groups such as corporations.

    As usual Wikipedia has a good discussion.

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