Romney, Adelson, and the Mega-Money Mindset

Dirty money will buy you dirty politics.   Princely benefactor of ultra-right wing causes, Nevada’s own Sheldon Adelson, is the subject of a probe into whether he violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. [LVSun/ProPublica] Some of Mr. Adelson’s donations should raise eyebrows as well.

The Newt Gingrich PAC, “Winning our Future,” received two major contributions; one of $5 million, and another for $2.5 million in the first quarter of 2012. [FundRace]  The Sands CEO’s willingness to pour millions, once reported at $21.5 million, [HuffPo] down the pipe into Newt Gingrich’s book promotion tour and sometime presidential campaign should make it clear to all but the most ethically challenged that he meant it when he said his pockets were bottomless when it comes to supporting the Romney Campaign.   So, whatever is raked in from the Golden Bamboozle in Macau could easily fill the coffers of the First Financialist in Chief.

Evidently, all Mr. Romney had to do was promise to make the pilgrimage to Israel, be as hawkish about Iran as the Bush era Neo-Cons, and make statements saying President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. [NYT] Oh, and a hug for right wing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gets bonus points.

However, failure to grant Mr. Adelson his million$ of wi$he$ reveals a less lamb-like corporate executive; an explanation from a Sands executive is illustrative: “Weidner recalled struggling to explain Adelson’s style to the Chinese, once comparing his boss to a famous emperor who became angry with China’s scholars and buried them alive with their books. “I would tell them: ‘He is brilliant. Sometimes, like the emperor, he is brutal.'”  [LVSun]

Governor Romney, apparently unwilling to be buried alive with his tax returns, has bent his knee to our Megalomaniacal Mogul.  It’s also nice to know that Mr. Adelson could be willing to spend as much as $100 million to have a Financialist occupying the White House. [HuffPo]

Governor Romney is not the only recipient of Mr. Adelson’s recent largess.  Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA7) sponsored the Young Guns PAC which limped into the campaign season with $55,ooo in the first quarter.  Getting a $5 million boost from the Adelson’s was a lifeline for Cantor’s campaign chest, from which future and current adherents to Cantor’s brand of obstructionist politics will receive donations.

The Adelson’s have also funneled $5 million into the Boehner/Cantor Congressional Leadership Fund. [LVSun]  The Adelson money now mingles with donations from AFLAC PAC, AT&T, the Koch Brothers, Home Depot, Valero, and the Nuclear Energy Institute in the CLF. [OS]

The Mega-Money Mindset

There’s a legalistic mindset at play in the political money games.  Only the ultra-rich have the resources to work at the edges of the legal system.  Consider for a moment Governor Romney’s carefully phrased comments about his income taxes:  “I pay all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more. I don’t think you want someone as the candidate for president who pays more taxes than he owes.” [WaPo]

Governor Romney paid “all the taxes that are legally required and not a dollar more.”  This is more easily accomplished with a battalion of accountants and tax law professionals generally unavailable to members of the American middle class.   Most people fill in the blanks on the EZ form, put a stamp on it, and mail it in, with a “what the heck, it’s as close as I can get” mentality.   A mind-set unfamiliar to the top 1% of the top 1%.

Compare this philosophical bent to Mr. Adelson’s comments on campaign finance:  “I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections,” he said. “But as long as it’s doable, I’m going to do it.” [Forbes]

Governor Romney is going to take every deduction, every dodge, and every tax haven possible because he will do only what is legally required of him. Mr. Adelson will attempt to influence elections because it is legally “do-able.”   There is no internal moral compass directing their actions; only external restraints.

In one case there is no perception that parking money in off-shore accounts in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, or in Swiss banks, isn’t “right” or might be held ethically questionable for someone who is running for the presidency of the United States.

In the other case there is a man worth approximately $25 billion, who in the absence of any external legal restraints on his donations will seek to buy an election — or multiple elections — if it’s black letter legal.  Mr. Adelson has admitted it’s the wrong thing to do, but if it advances his personal interests and it’s isn’t strictly illegal, then there is no internal restraint on his actions.

Morality Matters

Morality “refers to a code of conduct that applies to all who can understand it and can govern their behavior by it. In the normative sense, morality should never be overridden, that is, no one should ever violate a moral prohibition or requirement for non-moral considerations.” [Plato/Stanford]

The very definition of morality requires internal controls, or the application of moral principles by self-governing individuals who are capable of understanding the accepted code of conduct.  In the realm of campaign and personal finance, it seems neither Governor Romney, nor Mr. Adelson, wishes to apply generally accepted codes of conduct as part of their own self-governance.  Governor Romney will seek every edge he can pertaining to his taxes, while Mr. Adelson will do anything not explicitly forbidden — even though their actions give every appearance of dodgy behavior from a public morality perspective.

Small wonder neither man is fond of any restraints on their financial empires.  For such men “freedom” equates to a lack of legal restrictions on their actions.  They are not “free” as long as the rest of society restricts their behavior.  Thus, Mr. Romney calls for the repeal of the Dodd Frank Act regulating the financial sector.  It impinges on his “freedom.”  Mr. Adelson would rather the Justice Department not look too closely at his operations in Macau. That would impinge on his “freedom.”

Therefore, former Governor Romney may, indeed, not understand the commotion about his opportunistic flipping and flopping on issues like women’s rights, or abortion, or global climate change, or support for the policies of the Reagan Administration, [Politifact] and leave the electorate holding the view that he is a hollow man without fundamental political principles.  If all one’s principles are a function of external control, then it’s no wonder the former Massachusetts Governor is a “well lubricated weather vane” revolving as the wind direction changes.

Perhaps neither would understand:

Then, when the clouds are off the soul, When thou dost bask in Nature’s eye, Ask, how she view’d thy self-control, Thy struggling, task’d morality — Nature, whose free, light, cheerful air, Oft made thee, in thy gloom, despair.”  — Matthew Arnold.

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For an insightful piece on the issue, from a different perspective, read “Pay no attention to the billionaire behind the curtain”  Las Vegas City Life, July 6, 2012.

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