NBC's Michael Isikoff reports this afternoon that potential presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is counting on the backing of an unusually powerful behind-the-scenes donor: a billionaire casino mogul whose business empire stretches from Las Vegas to Macau.
Gingrich’s financial angel is the publicity-shy Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., and the fifth wealthiest man in America as recently ranked by Forbes Magazine.
Adelson, who has an estimated net worth of over $23 billion, has personally pumped $7 million over the past five years into Gingrich’s main political advocacy organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future. His contributions account for more than ten percent of all the organization's funds and have helped the former speaker promote his conservative causes and stay in the public eye.
Adelson and his gambling company have been plagued by legal troubles in recent months. The Sands recently disclosed that it is being investigated by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Nevada and Hong Kong regulators have opened their own probes, according to company disclosures.
The inquiries grow out of a wrongful termination lawsuit filed last fall by Steven Jacobs, the former top Sands executive in Macau where Adelson’s Venetian casino has become a major profit center for his company.
Jacobs alleged in court papers he was fired because he objected to Adelson's “repeated and outrageous” demands that he use “improper leverage” with Chinese officials to obtain valuable government concessions and that he retain the services of a Macau lawyer who was also a local government official.