The publication this year of the Forward 50 has happened differently from previous years. This entry includes the final video of this year’s Top 5: those American Jews who we think have had the most significant impact on the news in the past year.
Whether you love him or hate him for it, Sheldon Adelson, 79, a casino magnate and the seventh-richest man in America (14th in the world), has spent more than any person this election cycle.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision paved the way for Super PACs, political groups to which individuals can donate an unlimited amount of money. This provided an opening for Adelson, who was already active in Israeli politics as a major supporter of his friend Benjamin Netanyahu. Adelson said he would spend $100 million on the American election, and he may have come close, first supporting the candidacy of Newt Gingrich, then backing Mitt Romney with the goal of defeating Barack Obama in order to further his own political objectives: an uncompromising position on Israel and a desire to crush the power of unions.
The spotlight of the past year has also had its adverse effects. Adelson’s business practices have suffered scrutiny, including charges of corruption surrounding his Chinese ventures and criticism of his demands of the government of Spain, where he is looking to open another casino.
Adelson’s philanthropy has been substantial and prolific, with donations of $100 million to Taglit-Birthright Israel and to numerous medical research centers and educational institutes. But this year, it was his ideological influence on the campaign that was the most striking. When Romney visited Jerusalem in July, it was Adelson sitting at his side at a major fundraiser. And Adelson’s hard line, which rebuffs the need for Palestinian statehood and sees efforts at peace as futile, was echoed by the candidates he supported.
His biggest prize, a President Romney, eluded him this year. But as long as money can be poured into the political system, Adelson will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.