Report: Casino mogul’s election donations, pledges hit $71 million

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is on the brink of reaching $71 million in contributions thus far this election cycle, according to a report.

Adelson, who is worth almost $25 billion according to Forbes magazine, has split those expenditures in support of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid and for GOP nominee Mitt Romney, donating to campaigns, non-profits and super-PACs, sources familiar with Adelson’s political spending told The Huffington Post.

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Adelson began participating in presidential elections last year as Gingrich’s most prolific backer. Adelson and his wife donated tens of millions of dollars to support Gingrich’s campaign.

But with Gingrich out of the race, Adelson is directing his funds to Romney. He and his spouse recently donated $10 million to Restore Our Future, a pro- Romney super-PAC, hitting $36 million in contributions so far, according to The Huffington Post. Sources told the Post he has “given or pledged” at least an additional $35 million to conservative non-profits, which would bring his total in the campaign to $71 million.

Billionaires like Adelson can donate unlimited funds to super-PACs and 501(c) social welfare organizations, as long as they do not donate directly or in-kind, or coordinate with campaigns. Social welfare groups do not have to disclose their donors.

Individuals had been able to spend unlimited funds in previous elections, as the Supreme Court equated freedom to spend money in elections to free speech in Buckley v. Valeo. However, the creation of super-PACs through the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling and subsequent opinions has allowed donors to find other ways to funnel money into elections indirectly. 

The ruling directly equated corporations to people and allowed labor unions and businesses to blanket unlimited money into elections through super-PAC vehicles and 501(c) organizations.

Gingrich dropped out of the race in May, but before he took himself out of the running Adelson told Forbes he was willing to spend $100 million to elect the former Speaker to the White House. 

Adelson swapped his support to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, making a $10 million pledge to Romney’s super-PAC last week after the two met face-to-face in Las Vegas. 

His contributions though have attracted criticism. Last week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) accused Adelson of pumping “foreign money” into the 2012 campaign. 

"Much of Mr. Adelson's casino profits that go to him come from his casino in Macau, which says that obviously, maybe in a roundabout way foreign money is coming into an American political campaign," McCain said in an interview.

Campaign finance reform has been a signature issue for the Arizona senator who is a Romney supporter but has expressed concerns about the level of money flooding the 2012 election.

Adelson is one of the 15 richest men in the world, according to Forbes. Earlier this year, he told Forbes that he was funneling money into the elections partially to fight “the socialist-style economy we’ve been experiencing for almost four years.”