Trump and the seduction of Sheldon Adelson

Will Sheldon Adelson get snookered by the same failed Political Machine?

In early 2015, a group of well connected GOP consultants began raising  $100 million in large checks from their well-healed buddies on the promise of buying the White House.  We are serous operatives, they argued, and we can use big dollars to bend the will of the grassroots with the power of big money and big advertising.

Their efforts went down in flames.  One hundred millions spent on slick advertising went for naught. And, all of that money was being flushed down a Florida toilet – save the tens of millions “earned” by those well – connected consultants, of course.

Through this colossal failure, and other lower profile failures, one thing has become clear: All the money in world cannot buy elections. Ask President John Connally.  But it does buy expensive sports cars for political players.

Here’s how it works. If a political hack buys television commercials he gets a 15% commission. So political hacks sell television to their big donors. And they do everything they can to put the donors in the position where they have no choice but to do television. A late developing PAC, for example, has no time to build the right database. Television is all they can do.

Consider the June 1, 2016 announcement that former Chris Christie operative, Ken McKay, has tapped California hedge fund billionaire, Tom Barrack, to let him start a Trump Super PAC. It turns out McKay is currently employed by the Trump campaign and must undergo a legally required 120 “cooling off” period. The PAC cannot spend any money until October, rendering it completely ineffective. But hey, who cares? A few million is not a bad payday.

Take Bill Kristol, of the Weekly Standard. He wants to run a third party candidate he says, because neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton are good alternatives. I know Bill, and worked with him in the White House. He is no dummy. He knows full well that his candidate won’t win but hey, one might as well make a little money.

This November the key to a close presidential election is in the hands of three million voters in seven key states. The hardest job will be to find those three million voters and turn them into “true believers.” The PAC that does that will be the PAC that makes a difference.

Enter mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson is perhaps the single most generous donor to Republican causes, and someone deeply respected. As in the case of Donald Trump, Mr. Adelson did not become one of the world’s most successful businessmen by accident, in fact, it could easily be the other way around, with Adelson running for president needing Donald Trump to help a worthy PAC. So he knows the history I outlined above.

Sources say Mr. Adelson plans to spend as much as $100 million helping Donald Trump win the White House. Facing the mammoth Clinton machine.  Mr. Adelson’s generosity will be sorely needed.

But, the money must be spent smartly, engaging American’s at a grassroots level through channels that have already been built over time through hard work and elbow grease. There is no easy astroturfing here.

Hearing the call of another $100 million dollar PAC and seven figure paydays, establishment consultants are now lining up to convince Mr. Adelson and his confidants that they are the best ones to spend his money and take their 15% cut. But these consultants are all from the same tribe, cut from the same cloth as all Washington consultants, and know about grassroots politics.

I have a prediction. I want to say a bold prediction, but with so much evidence backing me, I fear it is rather easy to follow. If Mr. Adelson gives his generous support to a PAC run by status quo Republicans, it will do little to help Donald Trump and instead be squandered.

Mr. Adelson may be shopping for the “right” DC consultants to spend his money, but that is a quest akin to finding the Loch Ness Monster. These consultants know only one thing, big advertising, big money and big commissions.

I for one hope Mr. Adelson and his advisers will look outside the box and find a vehicle with a real grassroots networks, committed to engagement with real Americans. The TV commercials are the easy part. Donald Trump needs this help a lot more than DC Consultants need another sports car. And America cannot afford a President Hilary Rodham Clinton.


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About Doug Wead
Doug Wead is our presidential historian and frequent guest blogger here on CLC. You can see more of his work here: Doug Wead's Blog

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