Big (Jewish) Money Can't Buy Our Votes — So Far

Editorial

Outsized Role: Sheldon Adelson spent tens of millions of dollars on the 2012 election.
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Outsized Role: Sheldon Adelson spent tens of millions of dollars on the 2012 election.

Published June 05, 2014, issue of June 13, 2014.
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A new book details how a handful of extraordinarily wealthy Americans are manipulating our political system, and how a few Jews play an outsized role in the narrative. This could be a point of pride if the civic consequences weren’t so disastrous.

“It’s not just that the total sums pouring into our politics are greater than they’ve been at any other time in our nation’s history — though that is undeniably true. Rather, it’s that the spending is fundamentally changing how campaigns are run, which issues are debated, and which candidates represent their parties,” writes Kenneth J. Vogel in his book,“Big Money.” The 2012 election was the first time in which independent groups like those powered by the mega-donors spent more money than the political parties themselves and that is how the ultra-rich, as Vogel calls them, “are — in a very real and entirely legal way — hijacking American democracy.”

The Jewish names in this elite group span the political spectrum, from an outspoken liberal like George Soros to an Obama Democrat like Jeffrey Katzenberg, to the more libertarian Paul Singer, and then to the man who started it all, Sheldon Adelson, whose quixotic and expensive attempt to promote Newt Gingrich in the 2012 GOP primary heralded the beginning of the Big Money wave.

But here’s the thing. It didn’t really work. Gingrich lost the primary, and the protracted, intra-party fight weakened Mitt Romney in the general election. The mega-donors “haven’t been able to influence American politics in the way they hoped their contributions would,” Vogel noted in an interview. “A lot of money was spent fighting itself.”

This is small solace. Politics may be the only venue where the very rich throw good money after bad and still call the shots, while most Americans are increasingly shut out of the entire process.

Vogel made another salient point: “Very little of the money given by Jewish donors is actually spent on influencing the Jewish vote. It’s spent on politics more generally. I don’t think anyone has any illusions that American Jews could be shifted en masse from the Democratic column to the Republican column.”

Let’s remember that point in 2016.


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