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.


Published by Doug Wead

Doug Wead is a New York Times bestselling author whose latest book, Game of Thorns, is about the Trump-Clinton 2016 election. He served as an adviser to two American presidents and was a special assistant to the president in the George H.W. Bush White House.

9 thoughts on “Trump and the seduction of Sheldon Adelson

  1. Doug, insightful commentary as usual… but you leave two major questions hanging in the air: first of all, and less seriously, who are the “sources” claiming Adelson is planning to dump a hundred million into Trump’16? If it is info from publicist John Barron aka John Miller, mayhap it is too good to be true? 😉

    The other more-serious question is, besides astroturfing, where is Trump’16 or the hypothetically-associated PAC going to come up with even the most rudimentary sort of way to access the “grassroots level through channels that have already been built over time through hard work”?

    That is a description of exactly two campaigns, the Ron Paul 2012 network which was partially inherited by Rand’16, and the newer but currently more active Cruz’16 grassroots network. Trump’16 has famously put almost zero effort into the hard work and elbow grease necessary to create their own grassroots network, which is why Trump kept getting clobbered in caucus-states where big made-for-teevee rallies are not much use.

    Now, I’m having a very hard time imagining that the Trump’16 people, or even the Sheldon Adelson people, will be able to convince the pro-liberty network *or* the pro-tea network to put their nose to the grindstone for The Donald. Which seems to indicate that astroturfing is the only available option, unless I’m missing something. What existing channel to the grassroots did you have in mind, that might conceivably be willing to help Adelson promote the Trump brand?

    1. I get lots of emails from these posts and I can tell you that most of the Liberty folks are going to Donald Trump and some to Bernie Sanders. I know, I know. Don’t kill the messenger. It’s true. The Liberty folks supporting Bernie Sanders do not seriously believe in socialism but they just want to burn the house down and stop the insiders from raiding the Treasury. By far, most of the Ron Paul folks writing me are supporters of Donald Trump. They see him as a disruptive force, an unpredictable force, who will mess up things for the insiders and return to supply and demand and the lowest bidder. Someone needs to I.D. these folks.

      1. Go to the welding shops and the truck stops. I’m a Paul-bot turned Trump-ite with an advanced degree. The conservative intelligentsia are not sold on Trump yet. They are slowly warming. But the blue-collar business owners love him. They have employees who respect their endorsements.

      2. I don’t disagree that there is a subset of the RonP’12 supporters that are now Trump backers. And it is also the case that a much smaller but non-zero subset are now Bernie backers — that is also true, as disgusting as I find the idea of “liberty” movement folks turning into socialists — but most people don’t think rationally and reason their way to a correct conclusion! They simply follow personality, or the crowd, or gut instincts, and thus it makes sense that *some* RonP folks are now Bernie supporters. Not because RonP and Bernie have similarities ideologically, but simply because people (including some of the Ron Paul supporters!) are often illogical.

        But you are making the case here, that Adelson ought to spend his money on the liberty-network, if he wants to give Trump a shot at winning. This is under the assumption that, because RonP’12 had an extremely successful ground-game, and because a subset of the RonP’12 folks now support Trump, therefore Adelson will easily be able to find awesome grassroots liberty organizers that are Trump supporters.

        That’s not necessarily FALSE, but it sure doesn’t follow from the premises. Sure, the ground-game of RonP’12 was amazing… but the people that made it thataway were the “top 20% folks” of the RonP’12 supporters, the most active most involved folks, with pragmatic focus on the mechanics of winning delegates. Trump’16 has been *terrible* at winning delegates, so my hunch is that most of the highly-effective liberty-movement people are NOT in fact Trump-backers. The subset which went to Trump, in other words, is not the people that most helped RonP’12 win delegate-battles and maximize money-bombs and such.

        *Those* people either stuck with Rand, or went to Cruz, left the party to cheer on Gary Johnson, or just flat out stayed home as far as the presidential contest. Although I don’t have my finger on the pulse of the liberty-movement in the same way as Doug Wead, anecdotal evidence from my own tri-district area says that, of the liberty-organizers who went to the state convention to win RonP’12 delegates to Tampa four years ago, fully eight of the top ten are sitting this cycle out (half staying home and half concentrating on state-senate legislation or similar issues). It’s definitely true that Trump’16 is attracting some former members of the liberty-movement, but I don’t think Trump is attracting many top organizers. Which are the exact people that Adelson’s money would have to go to, for that cash infusion to have any hope of generating a successful groundswell of support (meetups and moneybombs and suchlike).

        Fundamentally though I think the problem is psychological to some degree. Ron Paul told his supporters, if you want me to win, sign up to be precinct chairs, practice Robert’s Rules, figure out the complex delegate-math, organize moneybombs, and spread the message of liberty since it brings people together. In other words, Ron Paul told them to work their butts off. By stark contrast, Trump tells his supporters, if you want me to win, come be entertained at my rallies, pledge you will vote for me in the low-commitment primaries, buy my ballcaps, and keep watching teevee for my messages… then kick back and prepare to get tired of winning all the time. Trump’s supporters don’t even show up to precinct conventions, let alone sign up to be precinct chairs. They don’t want to work hard to win, they want Trump to just wave his magic winner-wand, then all celebrate the victory.

  2. Interesting Presidental Campaign.Never followed one so closely.Thank you for your helpful insights and advice.
    Rod Carew

  3. I’ve pretty much ignored this cycle. It’s the biggest circus ever. trump, clinton, sanders? It’s like the three stooges come to life. Who knows, ’16 may actually be the purge or cleansing many have mentioned.

  4. I am one of those Ron Paul supporters that are leaning to Trump. And your assessment is exactly right, he is a disruptive and unpredictable force, and so far has bucked the establishment to my liking. Rand has the right principles, but he could learn a thing or two about politics from The Donald. And Trump could learn a few things about Liberty and the US Constitution from Rand. While VP is unlikely, I still am hopeful that Rand is tapped for an important position in Trumps admin.

  5. Does this mean that even tho Mr. Adelson isnt really helping Trump, Trump might still be obligated to him? Is that why we keep hearing Trump pledge allegiance to Israel?

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