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May 6, 2015

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J. Patrick Coolican:

Millions for Newt Gingrich? Sheldon Adelson’s money could have been better spent


Steve Marcus

Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks during a news conference after the Nevada caucus at the Venetian Saturday, February 4, 2012

Click to enlarge photo

Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., speaks during the news conference of the opening ceremony of the Venetian Macao Resort Hotel in Macau Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2007.

Local kajillionaire Sheldon Adelson spent $16.5 million to help his friend Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign, and I think we can say with certainty it was a waste of money, like “John Carter” or building a condo tower on the Las Vegas Strip in 2007.

Aside from a brief moment after Gingrich’s victory in the South Carolina primary, his campaign has been little more than a vanity tour, his poll numbers hampered by the thing that has always plagued Gingrich: The American people resoundingly do not like Newt Gingrich.

For Adelson, $16.5 million — that’s the confirmed family donation to a Gingrich-affiliated super PAC — is a drop in a bottomless bucket. Indeed, with so many people here in Las Vegas and in Macau and Pennsylvania playing the reverse ATM game, er, slot and table games, Adelson is the seventh-richest man in America, according to Forbes.

To many needy organizations in Las Vegas, though, that’s a lot of money. How much? Well, I decided to ask some nonprofits what they could do with that kind of coin. (When I was reporting this last week, I had been given a lowball figure of $10 million from a company insider, so I asked the worthy causes what they would do with $10 million.)

First, let’s acknowledge that Sheldon and his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, are already important philanthropists. As Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese says, “The Adelsons’ philanthropic donations dwarf what they do politically.”

They’ve given at least $100 million to Birthright Israel, which provides trips to Israel for Jewish young adults. They’ve given tens of millions through the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation. The Adelson Educational Campus opened in the fall of 2008 and now serves 500 students. Adelson brings wounded service members to his hotels a couple times a year to show appreciation for their sacrifices. No doubt there are other recipients that don’t make the media.

Adelson’s company, Las Vegas Sands, meanwhile, gives to Opportunity Village, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, The Public Education Foundation, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts and the Problem Gambling Center, among others.

Still, it’s hard not to think of those millions going to help Gingrich yammer away at us like Cliff Clavin of “Cheers,” only with a Ph.D. and a Tiffany’s account.

So, how better to spend next time?

My responders were uniformly leery of upsetting a potential donor, so please don’t hold it against them, Mr. Adelson.

Three Square Food Bank’s budget is $12 million. With $10 million, they could serve an additional 15 million meals per year, achieving 60 percent of the estimated need, instead of the current 30 percent. One in six people in the valley, or at least 300,000 residents, face food insecurity.

UNLV could also use an endowment to attract and retain the best students and professors. A $10 million endowment would ensure stable, permanent funding for UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute, the underappreciated center for writers.

One UNLV eminence says $10 million is halfway to $20 million, which could in turn be leveraged to find the $100 million needed to build UNLV’s own medical school.

Freedom House, a sober living facility, would work on its buildings and use the money for job training, substance abuse treatment, education, food, and rent and utility assistance for recovering addicts and homeless teens, among a bunch of other useful ideas.

Dr. Miriam Adelson is an addiction specialist and founded the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment & Research in 2000.

Ronald Lawrence, executive director of the Community Counseling Center, says that with $10 million, it could increase staff from 40 to 200, which means it could serve 15,000 clients annually, instead of 3,000. Or it could increase treatment space from 17,000 square feet to 170,000 square feet. Or it could create a complete inpatient unit with physicians, psychiatrists and nurses. Southern Nevada doesn’t have enough mental health facilities or outpatient services, which results in the county jail being our largest psychiatric facility.

The Las Vegas Art Museum, before it was shuttered in 2009, had an annual budget of about $1 million.

Child Focus brings together siblings who are separated by the foster care system, sending them to a wilderness camp and hosting events several times per year. Their annual budget is $900,000, so $10 million would, well, you get the idea.

This column first appeared in Las Vegas Weekly, a sister publication of the Sun.

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  1. Clearly, Sheldon Adelson could care less what other people think about his political donations, and it is his money after all.
    What to do?
    Well, if you don't agree with Adelson's wing-nut politics, just stay out of his properties. Less money in his machines means less money to support his causes.
    Money talks, you know...

  2. Another liberal who thinks he should be able to decide how someone else spends their money. He can do whatever he wants with it, because he EARNED it, a concept that is really alien to liberals.

  3. Coolican's comments will no doubt resonate poorly with conservatives. Adelson has done voters a service by making the Republican primary less certain, and making Romney earn the nomination , rather than taking it for granted. His regal bearing is almost too much to take, as it is. Presently, it appears that Santorum would make a better bet for a contrarian political benefactor. At least he stands a chance of upsetting the status quo, in Republican circles.

  4. The crux of the matter, with bone-heads on the left, is they are upset with folks who spend their own money since they want to spend it for them. There is an exception, of course. That is when kazillionaires such as George Soros pour untold millions into left wing causes. Not a squawk out of sages such as Coolican, in that case. As for Joe Lamy, the guy is incoherent and incomprehensible. Perhaps he's suffered a stroke or is dislexic. Pity the poor mope.

  5. When UNLV can afford to pay $100K for the 1 class Inverted Underwater Basket-weaving(political science) instructor from Georgia, they cant be in need of funds.

  6. I could care less what Mr. Adelson spends his money on but he had to know, like the rest of us, that Newt Gingrich had no chance in the Republican primaries (let alone the election) and that keeping Gingrich in the race would only help Mitt Romney by siphoning votes from Rick Santorum. In several races, Newt + Rick > Mitt. So who was Mr. Adelson really supporting?

  7. I just bought a really expensive cup of coffee at Starbucks, I hope I get a column written for it too :)

  8. acejoker--
    I find it difficult to believe that "Many" believed that Gingrich would (or could) be the Republican nominee, at any time.

  9. Thank you Joe & Jim for setting me straight. I appreciate it. BTW, Joe, I owned more than one restaurant in my time and had little patience with those who could not or would not perform the tasks for which I hired them. There was no "remedial" training at Fink's Restaurant. If they weren't prepared for the world of work, I showed them the door and fast. My customers deserved the best employees doing the best job for them. I put most of the blame squarely on the public school system and its lack of preparing students for what was to come when they became adults. Forget the touchy-feely BS; the "make-them-feel-good-about-themselves" nonsense and the "ethnic" studies which they can do on their own time and on the Internet if they are so inclined. Small business owners, be they men or women, are way too busy trying to please their patrons to fool around with malarkey such as that. The good kids were worth their weight in gold and I appreciated them to no end and let them know it with pay raises from time-to-time and year-end bonuses. That's the real secret to "spreading" wealth around. EARN IT!

  10. Memo to J. Patrick (Not) Coolican: since when did it become your job to control how Sheldon Adelson spends his money?

  11. Coolican, are you playing the lottery today? If so, and you win, do the readers get to tell you what to do with the money?