Sheldon Adelson's "Foreign Money" and John McCain's Hypocrisy

McCain didn't complain about the source of Adelson's money back when he was receiving it.

The Republican Party’s 2008 presidential candidate, John McCain, is warning about foreign money influencing American elections this year via a prominent supporter of Republican politicians.

In an interview that aired June 14 on PBS's Newshour program, Senator McCain was asked about a report that the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, Sheldon Adelson, and his wife Dr. Miriam Adelson would give $10 million, and perhaps more, to a “superpac” supporting the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The exchange went like this:

JUDY WOODRUFF: This question of campaign money highlighted today by this -- the announcement that there's a huge amount of money coming in from one donor in the state of Nevada.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Mr. Adelson, who gave large amounts of money to the Gingrich campaign. And much of Mr. Adelson's casino profits that go to him come from this casino in Macau.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Which says what?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Which says that, obviously, maybe in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American campaign -- political campaigns.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Because of the profits at the casinos in Macau?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Yes. That is a great deal of money.

It may have been the lowest moment of Senator McCain’s political career.

First, there’s the hypocrisy of it. Sen. McCain did not voice any concern about the source of Las Vegas Sands’ profits back in April 2008, when Adelson gave McCain’s campaign $2,300, according to Federal Election Commission records. Nor was McCain fulminating about foreign money in August of 2008, when his presidential campaign got another $2,300 from Adelson, nor in September 2008, when the McCain-Palin presidential campaign got another $2,300 from Adelson for its compliance committee. Dr. Miriam Adelson put an additional $18,900 into various McCain presidential campaign-related committees in 2008, the FEC records show, again without a publicly reported peep then out of the senator about “foreign money.”

Second, there’s the xenophobia of it. This is particularly tragic coming from McCain, who with Senator Edward Kennedy had been a leader on legislation that would have done more to welcome immigrants to America. Foreign profits are a different thing than foreign persons who want to become Americans, but the underlying principle—that it’s unwise to oppose something merely because of its foreign origins—holds in both cases.

Third, there’s the Washington-based disconnect with contemporary American business reality. It’s a global economy. You’d think that the politicians would want to be cheering American companies making profits overseas. Instead, Senator McCain seems to be almost demonizing them. Las Vegas Sands is hardly an outlier. A recent US News article says a typical big American company makes about 40% of its profits overseas. At General Electric, 54% of revenue is from overseas; at IBM, 64% of revenue; Intel, 85% of revenue; McDonald’s, 66% of revenue. If the CEO of Intel or of McDonald’s makes a political campaign contribution, can we expect complaints to follow from Senator McCain about “foreign money” infiltrating the American political system?

Is McCain himself suspect because his personal wealth derives from his wife’s family interest in a distributor of Budweiser, the beer brand now owned by Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev N.V.? Were all those New York Times editorials backing the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform suspect because the Times also owns the International Herald Tribune, which circulates in foreign countries, and because the New York Times Company is part owned by the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim?

The larger point is not so much about Senator McCain, who will be a less important national political figure going forward than he was in 2008, as about the spirit of the campaign finance “reform” crowd. That crowd seems determined to find a way to cast aspersions of corruption even in cases in which there is none. The press, which can indulge in politics to its hearts content without the disclosures to which the Adelsons are subject, loves to advance the narrative that, as Judy Woodruff put it, “in the wake of the Supreme Court decision Citizens United, we are seeing enormous sums of money going into this campaign.”

But the big Asian campaign-money scandal was back in the 1990s, more than a decade before the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United that supposedly opened the spigots. Now McCain would have us believe the Chinese (Macau is part of China) are trying (via Sheldon Adelson?) to install Mitt Romney, a candidate who has been criticizing President Obama for being too soft on human rights in China and on Chinese “currency manipulation”? It doesn’t add up. The claims of the campaign finance “reform” crowd almost never do.

Ira Stoll is editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of Samuel Adams: A Life.

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  • affenkopf||

    Adelson has been pretty open about donating money to help the interests of a foreign country.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    He wants full-out war with Iran. When Newt promised to pick John Bolton at State Adelson pulled a war boner Cheney would admire.

  • Jack Alfred||

    You probably mean that he donates to Israel, as do many Jewish people and Evangelical people the world over. That is, however, not what is meant by "foreign money" in this criticism of his donations to the American campaign. If he donates to the Israeli presidential campaigns themselves, then that is a problem for Israel to resolve. American should confine their concern to whether foreignors, not foreign-earned money by Americans, are influencing the campaign through donations.

  • Jack Alfred||

    You probably mean that he donates to Israel, as do many Jewish people and Evangelical people the world over. That is, however, not what is meant by "foreign money" in this criticism of his donations to the American campaign. If he donates to the Israeli presidential campaigns themselves, then that is a problem for Israel to resolve. American should confine their concern to whether foreignors, not foreign-earned money by Americans, are influencing the campaign through donations.

  • Srynerson||

    McCain's critique seems particularly bizarre given that it was aimed at a fellow Republican and could be spun as an anti-semitic statement (although the specific reference to Macau suggests McCain was directing the jab at China). If McCain wanted to complain about foreign money influencing elections, why didn't he try to come up with some foreign-connected Obama donor?

  • Jack Alfred||

    The reasoning here on McCain's part is so poor, it makes him look like a light-weight in the brain department. Good thing he lost.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Trying squeeze sense out of John McCain's mental diahrrea is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.

  • ||

    Is it agism to suggest that sometimes people are too old to be in charge?

  • ||

    Mccain. This fucker looks more and more like he stepped out of the grave to take a piss. Just resign, retire,die, whatever. Just GTFO of congress already.

  • Jack Alfred||

    Tell us, please, just how you selected this particular name for yourself.

  • Juice||

    Lowest moment in his career? What? Aren't we forgetting about a little something involving a bulldog and lipstick?

  • Drake||

    I was thinking of four other Senators and a guy named Keating.

  • joy||

    The press, which can indulge in politics to its hearts content without the disclosures to which the Adelsons are subject, loves to advance the narrative that, as Judy Woodruff put it, “in the wake of the Supreme Court decision Citizens United, http://www.zonnebrilinnl.com/z.....-3_14.html we are seeing enormous sums of money going into this campaign.”

  • Jack Alfred||

    Well, thank god the unions are not contributing enormous sums as well.

    Oops. I am misinformed.

  • Alex the wolf||

    I dont really understand those who oppose citizens united decision. What was the alternative? a committee deciding which publicity is allowed and which one is not because it is political? The decision should have been 9-0

  • Rubber Nipple Salesman||

    Re;Deciding Committee;
    Yes,that's what the government and elites view themselves as.They're the only people qualified to use large sums of money to deseminate the proper information to the masses.

  • ||

    Third, there’s the Washington-based disconnect with contemporary American business reality. It’s a global economy. You’d think that the politicians would want to be cheering American companies making profits overseas. Instead, Senator McCain seems to be almost demonizing them. Las Vegas Sands is hardly an outlier. A recent US News article says a typical big American company makes about 40% of its profits overseas. At General Electric, 54% of revenue is from overseas; at IBM, 64% of revenue; Intel, 85% of revenue; McDonald’s, 66% of revenue. If the CEO of Intel or of McDonald’s makes a http://www.maillotfr.com/maill.....22_29.html political campaign contribution, can we expect complaints to follow from Senator McCain about “foreign money” infiltrating the American political system?

  • Lucretio||

    "Second, there’s the xenophobia of it ... Foreign profits are a different thing than foreign persons who want to become Americans, but the underlying principle—that it’s unwise to oppose something merely because of its foreign origins—holds in both cases."

    um ... wat? Don't tell me I'm the only one who shat myself reading this. Am I xenophobic if I don't want Sinopec ever influencing American elections?

  • jason||

    At this time country need foreign investment and Jhon mchain will need to repond it.

  • TC@LeatherPenguin||

    Sen. McGrampypants is the poster child for everything that's wrong with the sclerotic assholes holding "leadership" roles in Teh Stupid Party....

  • Dr. Thaddeus Tingleberry||

    A politician is a hypocrite? Says one thing than does another??

    OH DO GO ON.......

    Please, the story here is Adelson is a staunch Israel-Firster who is, like so many of his ziocon cohorts, willing to fight for Israel's 'security' to the very last drop of American blood.

    The insane clown posse making up the Israel Lobby, from fat doughy triators like Richard Perle to senile and corrupt folks like McCain intend to march from Damascus to Tehran so Israel can invade Lebanon {again} and occupy more land and aquafiers... and when they build Jewish only roads, and only give building permits to Jews, and expand settlements while claiming the other side wants peace... they'll helpfully remind you that any and all criticism of the Jewish state is "anti-Semitic" because, you know, they can do no wrong.

    http://www.salon.com/2012/06/1.....singleton/

    Congress has been bought by agents of a foreign government, international banks, and all manner of war profiteer.
    Obama regularly wipes his ass with the constitution {how does he have the plegal power to 'legalize illegals'?} and our military is become a mercenary force for Israel.

    It's obvious and blatant yet the major news stations dutifully present the Prez as a liberal champion and his efforts to end the recession sincere and well-advised.

    This country deserves its decline.

  • Jack Alfred||

    Mr. Adelson, is not an agent of a foreign government; he is an American citizen, spending his own money. Where he earns it is of no concern to anyone, anymore than where IBM, or any other corporation, or any small business owner earns his money--perhaps on the web. If you are an American citizen, then it isn't foreign money at all; it is American money.

  • Jack Alfred||

    Re: "willing to fight for Israel's 'security' to the very last drop of American blood."

    I am unaware of a single drop of American soldiers' blood being spilled in any fight for Israel. Suppose you fill us in on your delusions.

  • tee shirt pas cher||

    The larger point is not so much about Senator McCain, who will be a less important national political figure going forward than he was in 2008, as about the spirit of the campaign finance “reform” crowd. That crowd seems determined to find a way to cast aspersions of corruption even in cases in which there is none. The press, which can indulge in politics to its hearts content without the disclosures to which the Adelsons are subject, loves to advance the narrative that, as Judy Woodruff put it, “in the wake of the Supreme Court decision Citizens United, we are seeing enormous sums of money going into this campaign.”

  • Jack Alfred||

    Enormous sums going into the campaign is not the issue being raised in the Democrat party campaign literature, probably because enormous sums of Pritzker funds went into the Obama campaign. They are complaining about "foreign money" which, in itself is harmless; foreign persons contributing are another thing entirely.

  • Jack Alfred||

    This is an easy one. Money earned abroad by an American citizen, which Mr. Adelson most certainly is, poses no danger whatsover to our campaign. It isn't the money that is contributing, it is the American Citizen. We don't care where the donor earns his money; it is totally irrelevant. When we SHOULD care is when a foreign PERSON attempts to affect an American campaign by making donations to one candidate or another. We can assume that they would be attempting to influence our election to help THEIR country, not ours. But in this case, Mr. Adelson is a citizen of the USA.

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