Chapter 15: Taking a Gamble
“Sheldon, how’re ya doing?” Karl Rove said, shaking hands with Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas mogul who was almost single-handedly keeping Newt Gingrich afloat in his bid for the Republican nomination for president. Rove hated Adelson doing this and thereby extending the internecine warfare that was the Republican campaign, but he loved Adelson’s money and his access to even more money in foreign climes, specifically, China.
“We are doing just super, Mr. Rove,” Adelson said. His statement was reinforced by Adelson’s posh office, to say nothing of the ostentatious Venetian Hotel and Casino that served as the headquarters of Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” Adelson didn’t beat around the bush, especially with someone like Karl Rove, who in the few times they’d spoken, had never failed to bring up money and politics. The fact that Rove had flown out to Las Vegas to meet with Adelson indicated it wasn’t a social call.
“How’s your new casino doing there in Singapore?” Rove asked. He already knew Adelson was making another fortune on the $8 billion enterprise, despite early start-up troubles.
“Give it time, Mr. Rove, give it time,” Adelson said.
“Yeah, good, good,” Rove said. He knew Adelson would be noncommittal when it came to how much fucking money he was hauling in. Hell, Adelson had made back his $265 million investment in the Sands Macao in one year, Rove recalled.
“Listen Sheldon, the party needs some help--”
Adelson interrupted, “The party? Not the communists, you don’t mean, boychick,” he said, chuckling, his jowly face jiggling like cherry jello.
“The Republican Party, Sheldon,” Rove said, adding, you prick, in his mind. He hurried on before Adelson could make some other smart-ass remark. “I know you’ve personally given generously to Newt’s campaign, and we’re grateful for that, but--”
“I doubt that, Karl,” Adelson said, more serious now. He knew Rove was doing everything he could to get Romney the Republican nomination. Even at close to 80, Adelson was sharp and plugged in. He had to be in order to prosper in the gaming industry.
“Nevertheless, Rove said, “You’re a strong supporter of Republican causes, and defeating the Democrats at the polls in 2012 is a cause célèbre.” Rove thought he might throw in a foreign phrase to impress Adelson, but he unknowingly mispronounced the term.
Adelson picked up on Rove’s mispronunciation and not one to let an opportunity to gain a psychological advantage pass him by, he not-so-subtly corrected Rove by saying, “Of course it is, Karl. It is THE cause célèbre,” emphasizing the correct pronunciation of the French phrase.
Rove was unfazed. In fact, Adelson’s attempt to belittle Rove played right into Rove’s hands. Scooting forward in his chair and moving his shoulders like a feint, Rove pressed the issue. “I knew you’d see it that way, Sheldon, that’s why I know you’ll be willing to help funnel some Chinese money to the RNC.”
“But, Mr. Rove--” Adelson said. This idiot will put me in jail, if I let him, he thought.
Rove cut him off. “Sheldon, surely you can work it out so that the Chinese invest a few hundred million yuan in one of your schemes, ‘er projects, and once the money turns green, you shuttle it to Winning the Future, and they put it into RNC targeted initiatives.”
“American Solutions for Winning the Future is not my organization, Mr. Rove. It is a free and independent advocacy group.”
Oh yeah, sure, Rove thought. Adelson founded and funded the super PAC.
“I have no control over how it chooses to spend its money,” Adelson went on. “Besides, what makes you think the Chinese would be willing to contribute to an American political campaign, not to speak of it being against the law?” Adelson shifted his short, endomorphic body in his over sized ergonomic chair and peered at Rove sideways.
“Well, Sheldon, I think the Chinese feel that they owe you for supporting their bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics.”
“Well--,” Adelson said, scratching what little was left of his reddish hair.
“Plus, they have a lot of money invested in your enterprises, and your enterprises thrive under a Republican Administration. Not so much under another four years of Obama, especially given his penchant for raising corporate taxes and supporting the fucking unions.” Rove glanced at the photograph just behind Adelson of he and George W. Bush together in Israel. Adelson was another ‘Bush Pioneer,’ but he marched to his own drummer.
Rove knew that Adelson was a staunch supporter of Israel, strongly opposed to the division of Jerusalem, and a sworn enemy of unions. He’d done everything he could to break the back of Las Vegas gaming unions. When he tore down the old Sands and put up the Venetian, he froze out the unions that had represented workers at the Sands. And like every other billionaire Rove knew, Adelson was also stridently anti-tax, and a strong supporter of the ‘corporations are people’ dogma of the Republican Party, and, thanks to Rove, the Supreme Court.
Adelson had been quiet for too long. Rove wanted to seal the deal and he threw out his trump card. “Look, Sheldon, you know I’m a supporter of Mitt. I think he has the best chance against Obama in 2012, but I know you support Newt. I’m willing to let the whole damned thing ride until the convention and then see where the chips fall. But in return, we need to ramp up spending on some of our key initiatives. And to do that, we need a big influx of money. What do you say?” Of course Rove had no intention of keeping this pledge. Hell, Adelson will have no way of knowing how I’m spending my money, thought Rove.
“What initiatives?” Adelson asked. Thinking to himself that Rove was pretty damned full of himself.
Rove started with his ace. “Well for one, we’re fighting the Scott Walker recall in Wisconsin. The fucking unions are generating a lot of energy behind that and he needs our help.”
“I’m one hundred percent in front on that and have already contributed money to Scott’s organization to help fight that,” Adelson said, with some energy of his own.
“Good, good,” said Rove, manufacturing a smile. “We’re also working with Walker and other Republican governors to push the requirement for voter identification. Anyone attempting to register will have to have government approved photo ID.”
“Damned right!” Adelson said. “And why shouldn’t they.” It wasn’t a question.
“And get this, Sheldon,” Rove said, with enthusiasm, “Mostly people get their photo IDs at the DMV and we’re using the budget crisis to shut down a bunch of DMV offices, and guess where we’re shutting ‘em down?” Rove answered his own question. “In predominately Democratic areas.”
“Good idea,” said Adelson. “The Democrats derive a lot of their support from the poor and minorities. The photo ID thing will impact them the most.”
“Damned right,” said Rove. “But all this takes money, so what about it Sheldon -- can you help us?”
“Karl, you know as well as I do that the law prohibits foreign nationals from contributing to our political campaigns, in any way, shape, or form,” Adelson said. “We can’t be caught doing this. Do you understand?”
“I understand, Sheldon,” Rove said, smiling.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.