Meet the Warmongering Billionaires Who Will Spend
a Fortune to Influence the Next President
The candidates will be flooded with money from these
By Alex Kane
November 16, 2014 "ICH"
On November 9, the ugly face of America’s
money-saturated election process was put on full
Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban, two billionaires
with right-wing, pro-Israel agendas, took the stage
at the Israeli American Council’s inaugural
conference in Washington, D.C.
They fantasized about bombing Iran and about
buying the New York Times because they said it’s
biased against Israel. Both are bound to play an
outsized role in the 2016 presidential elections by
flooding the campaign with money to support their
favored candidates. In a post-Citizens United world,
Adelson and Saban are kings, and Israel will be the
beneficiary of their largesse if the donors have the
ear of a future president.
Saban and Adelson are on opposite ends of the
mainstream (and narrow) political spectrum. Adelson
is a casino mogul who bankrolled the 2012
presidential campaigns of GOP candidates Newt
Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Saban is in the
entertainment business and is a major Democratic
Party donor. But when it comes to U.S. foreign
policy and Israel, Saban and Adelson take many of
the the same positions, displaying an eagerness for
war with Iran and a desire to keep the U.S. alliance
with Israel rock-solid.
“There’s no right or left when it comes to Israel,”
Saban said in what news reports called a joking
reference to the moguls’ seating positions at the
conference where they spoke.
quip was more than just a joke. It was a nod to how
the Democratic and Republican parties are united in
singing Israel’s praise, backing its military
actions and voting to give the country $3.1 billion
in U.S. military aid annually. If Adelson’s and
Saban’s chosen candidates in 2016 get their way,
that unity will shine through during the
presidential campaign, with the debate being reduced
to who would support Israel the most.
Saban, an Israeli-American famous for producing the
TV show Power Rangers, is currently the CEO
of the Saban Capital Group, which invests in media
companies around the world. A 2010
New Yorker profile of Saban by Connie Bruck
paints a portrait of a man who is heavily
influential, charming and hawkish. “I'm a one-issue
guy and my issue is Israel,”
he told the New York Times in 2004.
At the the event with Adelson, Saban had a crude
prescription for what Israel should do about Iran.
“I would bomb the living daylights out of the sons
of bitches.” The answer came during a discussion of
what Saban would do if he were Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and thought a nuclear
deal with Iran was a threat to Israel.
His chosen candidate is Hillary Clinton, the
front-runner for the Democratic Party nomination in
2016. As Bruck reported in the New Yorker, Saban has
given millions of dollars to the Clintons in the
form of donations to Bill Clinton’s presidential
library and the Clinton Global Initiative.
Speaking about Clinton to the
Washington Post at the
conference, Saban said, “I have told her and
everybody who’s asked me, ‘Whatever it takes, we’re
going to be there...’ She would be a fantastic
president for the United States, an incredible world
leader and one under whom I believe — deeply — the
relationship with the U.S. and Israel will be
given backers like Saban ample reason for thinking
of her as the perfect candidate for Israel. During
the 2008 presidential election,
Clinton was asked by ABC’s “Good Morning
America” what she would do if Iran used a nuclear
weapon on Israel. “In the next 10 years, during
which they might foolishly consider launching an
attack on Israel, we would be able to totally
obliterate them,” she said. This year, in an
interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, she
doubled down on her pro-Israel agenda. “If I
were the prime minister of Israel, you’re damn right
I would expect to have control over security [in the
West Bank],” she said.
Adelson’s choice for who to back in the 2016 race is
trickier. The leading GOP candidates include people
like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, two politicians with
divergent views on U.S. foreign policy, though Paul
has been moving towards a more hawkish position in
recent months. What is more clear is that Adelson’s
impact, no matter who he backs, will be large. After
the GOP losses in 2012, Adelson
promised he would “double” his donations to the
party. That means Adelson is prepared to spend as
much as $300 million on Republican candidates.
Adelson, who made his fortune in the
casino business, is one of the richest people in the
world. He has used his largesse to shower pro-Israel
groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition and the
Zionist Organization of America with millions of
dollars. In 2012, it was Adelson who prolonged the
GOP primary by boosting Newt Gingrich,
who famously proclaimed, in line with Adelson’s
views, that the Palestinian people were “invented,”
that there is no such thing as a Palestinian nation.
When Gingrich finally dropped out,
Adelson gave $30 million to a
pro-Mitt Romney super-PAC.
His influence in the Republican Party was made clear
in March of this year. Chris Christie and other
potential presidential candidates flew out to speak
to the Adelson-backed Republican Jewish Coalition.
But Christie tripped up when he used the term
“occupied territories” to refer to the West Bank and
Gaza. While the Palestinian territories are indeed
under occupation--a term used even by the U.S. State
Department--Adelson and his ilk reject that view.
The audience at the RJC event in March was no fan of
the “occupied” remark, and Christie later apologized
The casino mogul apparently believes Israel should
hold onto the West Bank forever, even at the cost of
democracy in the area. “I don’t think the Bible says
anything about democracy,”
Adelson said on November 9. “God talked about
all the good things in life. He didn’t talk about
Israel remaining as a democratic state, otherwise
Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state — so
also said that the U.S. should “not just talk [with
Iran]. I would take action.” Last year,
Adelson made waves when he suggested that
President Obama should launch a nuclear weapon at
Iran to send a message to the country’s leaders.
Saban’s and Adelson’s tough talk on Iran comes as a
deadline to reach a final nuclear agreement with
Iran approaches. Many Democrats and Republicans are
deeply skeptical of reaching any deal with Iran.
The 2016 election campaign will likely feature the
GOP and Democratic candidates slugging it out on
issues like climate change, inequality and
immigration. But when it comes to Israel and Iran,
the two candidates, backed by people like Saban and
Adelson, will have many of the same prescriptions:
ramp up pressure on Iran and back Israel no matter
what. The only debate will be on how far to take
those positions. Think of it as a battle between the
Saban position of bombing the “sons of bitches” vs.
the Adelson position of nuking Iran.