Mogul Adel­son, rich peers learn elec­tion not for sale

Austin American-Statesman - - BALANCED VIEWS - From the left Mon­day Tues­day Wed­nes­day Thurs­day Fri­day Satur­day JEROME FAVRE / BLOOMBERG Long­time Texas news­pa­per­man John Young lives in Colorado. jy­oung­col­umn@ Sun­day


of 2012 finds re­al­ity tele­vi­sion con­tin­u­ing to con­sume the medium like ty­phoid. Or, more ap­pro­pri­ately, like mononu­cle­o­sis rav­aging a fresh­man dorm.

You might call it all flot­sam — but I’m here to report that one re­al­ity show truly proved in­struc­tive. I speak of “The Really Big­gest Loser.”

Not to be con­fused with the show about how obese peo­ple sweat their cares away, “The Really Big­gest Loser” fea­tured a short stack of fat cats who spent mil­lions on an elec­tion. To their as­ton­ish­ment, they found that they couldn’t buy Amer­ica.

Not you, Shel­don Adel­son. Not you, Harold Sim­mons. You nei­ther, Bob Perry. Nor you, Bill Koch, or David Koch, or Charles Koch.

In our sys­tem, we’re told that ev­ery­thing has a price, even the Amer­i­can sys­tem it­self. Th­ese con­tes­tants set out to prove it.

Each com­peted valiantly. They shed dol­lars, not by the bucket but by the tanker truck — and they lost.

They did, how­ever, pro­vide Amer­ica with first-rate tele­vi­sion, or a least the part of Amer­ica in all those bat­tle­ground states Mitt Rom­ney lost — bil­lions of dol­lars worth of at­tack ads, so well-spun, so grip­ping, so fu­tile.

Karl Rove didn’t spend his own money, but he has to be con­sid­ered in his own cat­e­gory. His su­per PAC Amer­i­can Cross­roads spent $300 mil­lion to buy Amer­ica, and it got? Squat.

The lineup for “The Really Big­gest Loser,” was set early in the game. USA To­day re­ported last Fe­bru­ary that 25 per­cent of the su­per PAC money amassed to in­flu­ence the 2012 elec­tions came from five in­di­vid­u­als. All were Repub­li­can.

At the time, No. 1 was Sim­mons, the Dal­las bil­lion­aire who had do­nated $12 mil­lion to Rove’s group. Back in 2004, it was Sim­mons who spent $3 mil­lion to get the claims of the Swift Boat Veter­ans for Truth be­fore the pub­lic in a bid to tor­pedo the pres­i­den­tial run of John Kerry.

Bob Perry, the Hous­ton home­builder and an­other “Swift Boat” bankroller, was listed as No. 3 of the su­per PAC su­per donors by USA To­day.

It is en­tirely un­der­stand­able that th­ese in­di­vid­u­als fig­ured they could buy Amer­ica. Af­ter all, Sim­mons and Perry pretty much have had Texas tied in a shiny red bow for those they’ve sup­ported over the past 18 years. Rick Perry owes builder Perry (no re­la­tion) a lot for last-sec­ond bun­dles that set him on his gov­er­nor-for-life path, give or

Scot Le­high

Paul Krug­man

Dana Milbank

Mau­reen Dowd

Gail Collins

John Young take a pres­i­den­tial dal­liance or two.

So, in 2012, all of th­ese big guns had a bead on Barack Obama, and what did his cam­paign have?

It had its own deep-pocket donors like la­bor unions and movie mogul Jef­frey Katzen­berg. But here’s the odd thing: As Time mag­a­zine re­ported in nam­ing Obama its Per­son of the Year, the pres­i­dent’s cam­paign did a stun­ning job of rais­ing money in small in­cre­ments. That’s right — $690 mil­lion of Obama’s $1 bil­lion in do­na­tions came not in draw­ing rooms, ski chalets or board­rooms but on­line.

“In a cam­paign that su­per PACs were sup­posed to dom­i­nate, Obama’s op­er­a­tion proved that many small ef­forts were more pow­er­ful than a few big ones. No one in ei­ther party thinks cam­paign fi­nance will ever be the same.”

So, who is “The Really Big­gest Loser”? That’s ac­tu­ally an easy call.

Not only did Shel­don Adel­son, the Las Ve­gas casino owner, rank No. 1 in do­nat­ing $34.2 mil­lion to Rom­ney and sup­port­ive groups ac­cord­ing to Politico, he gave $10 mil­lion to the PAC that bankrolled Newt Gingrich in the pri­maries.

Adel­son’s money al­lowed Gingrich to float a host of at­tacks on Rom­ney, in­clud­ing the line of ques­tion­ing about the ac­tiv­i­ties of Bain Cap­i­tal, some­thing that Democrats would em­ploy.

In roulette terms, Adel­son let it ride on the wrong num­ber, and then tried to win it all back with house money.

Yes, Mr. Adel­son, you are “The Really Big­gest Loser.” Win­ner? The Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

Leonard Pitts

Shel­don Adel­son, chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Las Ve­gas Sands Corp., spent $44 mil­lion-plus to sup­port Rom­ney, Gingrich.

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