Sheldon Adelson Just Revolutionized American Politics

Though he’s not exactly a household name, casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson is well-known in politics as one of the largest donors to Republican politicians. He’s also now the owner of one of the premier newspaper properties in America, the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper.

The purchase is going to revolutionize politics because Adelson will have done something that Democratic billionaires like Warren Buffett have been doing for decades: purchasing newspapers. As of this writing, Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway owns 71 newspapers across America including swing states Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. Over the years, he’s also donated billions of dollars to various liberal causes including Planned Parenthood; he also very publicly endorsed Barack Obama for president and agitated for higher income taxes on wealthy people.

This is not Adelson’s first newspaper. He already owns several others in Israel, including that country’s most popular daily publication, Israel Hayom (Today) which is widely regarded as an influential voice in favor of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, so much so that his rivals have literally targeted it with legislative initiatives.

The Review-Journal has long had a libertarian-conservative editorial page which isn’t likely to change under its new owner. Like many regional dailies, it has seen its profits and staff shrink as the metro newspaper industry continues to contract. That might change considering the massive amounts of money that Adelson has poured into Israel Hayom, purportedly losing millions of dollars a month on the free paper.

While there are a handful of media companies in the U.S. which are owned or operated by right-leaning individuals, the industry as a whole is overwhelmingly dominated by corporate executives who support Democrats. Even the employees of News Corporation, the former parent company of Fox News Channel, were revealed to have given far more money to Obama’s re-election campaign compared to his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

The continued dominance of liberal media magnates like Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone has been interesting in light of the billions of dollars that their conservative counterparts have poured into generally inefficient television advertising.

The one large exception to this rule has been News founder Rupert Murdoch who, despite his reputation as a hardcore Republican, had given less than $1 million to members of the GOP since 1990 as of 2011.

Will Adelson’s move inspire other conservative donors to stop wasting their money on television ads in pursuit of a defunct base mobilization strategy? It should.

And as for the Review-Journal, there are several possible directions that Adelson could take the paper as Molly Ball notes at The Atlantic:

Every paper has an owner, and every newspaper owner takes a different approach. Some are proudly hands-off—this seems to be the case for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, under whose ownership the Washington Post has flourished editorially without seeming to change direction. Some put their mark on the editorial page but leave the newsroom alone; this is largely the case for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and many local newspapers whose owners seek to be prominent figures in their communities. And some seek to turn the publication into a platform for their views from front to back, in subtle or not-so-subtle ways; the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post leaps to mind.

Image credit: Sheldon Adelson and wife Miriam Adelson by Union20Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

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