Sheldon G. Adelson, the renowned philanthropic billionaire casino and hotel owner, is holding an event at his acclaimed Venetian hotel to address 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls. The primaries are nearly two years away, but the magnate is looking to build support in Las Vegas this weekend. A chief figurehead and backer of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which includes former ambassador Sam Fox, former party chairman Ken Mehlman and private equity executive Lewis Eisnberg, the four contenders are jockeying for Adelson’s influence.
The billionaire and his wife, Miriam, have donated over $100 million to Republican groups, including Super PACs supporting Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Many who know the power-couple are saying the mogul is undertaking a new strategy for 2016—looking to pour his affluence on behalf of a more mainstream Republican candidate. In the early stages of assessing those candidates, Adelson is being much more tactical, looking for a nominee who has broad, public appeal to a progressively diverse national constituency.
In 2012, the billionaire had a poor showing of political spending, but made it extremely clear how a select few of the ultra-wealthy could influence the course of the race. He first dropped $15 million on Newt Gingrich, which financed fierce television campaigns against Mitt Romney. But once Gingrich dropped out, Adelson then embraced Romney, pouring $30 million into the pro-Mitt super PAC, Restore Our Future. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, his spending made him the single largest individual donor.
It’s clear Adelson is not looking to make the same mistake twice. Those in attendance this weekend will be former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. All four are highly established figures with strong résumés, something Adelson is looking for in a solid contender right from the start.