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February 21, 2012

Gingrich’s Money Man Torpedoed Mathias

Roy Meachum

While most Marylanders don’t recognize his name, Sheldon Adelson promised this weekend to back GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich with another $10 million. The Las Vegas casino owner forced Frederick’s Sen. Charles Mathias to drop from the 1986 elections.


Currently, the billionaire contributes to the chaos attending the 2012 Republican primaries; he’s not the single factor. Ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may be unelectable, as dissidents claim. That has little to do with Mr. Abelson’s wading-in, flourishing fistfuls of cash.


The ex-Democrat noisily left his party, protesting that his tax rate on oodles of money was lower than most Americans, but his armies of attorneys and bookkeepers adjusted. Statistically, an accountant figured out his casino and other properties earn him $3.3 million every hour, whether sleeping or awake. The $21 million is a bagatelle, little more than a tip for the eighth wealthiest man in the world. Far more has gone to Israel.


That was Mr. Adelson’s rub with Illinois’ Sen. Charles “Chuck” Percy, serving as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Mac” Mathias was a member. They disagreed with President Ronald Reagan’s approach to the Middle East; there was no nasty conflict. After all, the three agreed the worst political sin was to knock fellow Republicans. In collaboration with American Israeli Political Action Committee, Sheldon Adelson suffered no such restraints.


In 1984, the race from Abraham Lincoln’s state was a backbreaker. The handsome incumbent, who had parlayed the presidency of the Bell and Howell camera company into a political career, was clearly losing to a professor from Southern Illinois: Paul Simon was the son of Lutheran missionaries. The last weekend before the election, “Chuck” Percy made a public, televised appeal to send him back to the U.S. Senate. There were reports of tears in his eyes – to no avail.


While in Washington, assignments sent me to cover the Congress. I knew Mr. Mathias in a professional way. He and I were never close, even after I moved to Frederick, so I have no idea of his thoughts at his staunch ally’s shellacking. I read in The Jewish Times that Sheldon Adelson brought property in Maryland; the publication speculated the eminent Zionist was thus able to participate in state politics. I instantly thought of “Mac” Mathias. There was rampant speculation he might seek another term. In October 1985, both locally and at the Capitol, he announced he was stepping down.


Many others and I regretted that Senator Mathias would no longer hold up Maryland colors in the federal city. He was a liberal and much too much has been made of the increasing conservatism of his Republican party.


Still no one mentions of the role played by the man who uses his billions to support Newt Gingrich; the former speaker of The House of Representatives has expressed his gratitude in various speeches, voicing his enthusiasm for the Jewish state and Zionism. He has gone so far that he received the label of “propagandist for Israel.” Among other points he vows to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, which would ignite alarms in Muslim capitals.


News stories point out that hardcore Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s feeling on Palestine enjoys Mr. Adelson’s devotion, which translates into hard cash. The Las Vegas casino magnate began a newspaper especially to uphold Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party, which strongly opposes the policies of the United States and attempts to subvert them. They succeeded in Iraq: Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction posed no threat to this country; the artillery shells could reach the Jewish state, and America invaded.


Fortunately for this country, Newt Gingrich is in a losing slump, which makes more astonishing the weekend story about Sheldon Adelson. But the men’s minds are in synch, and that’s the only thing that really matters.


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