Quickly assuming the mantle of Donald Trump’s chief Jewish advocate, Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson has reached out to Republican Jewish leaders asking them to follow his lead and contribute to Trump’s presidential campaign.
“Like many of you, I do not agree with him on every issue,” Adelson wrote board members of the Republican Jewish Coalition in the Monday email, which was first reported by The Associated Press. “However, I will not sit idly by and let Hillary Clinton become the next president. The consequences to our country, and Israel, are far too great to take that risk.”
The plea for support indicates that Adelson, who was reluctant to back Trump during the primary race but has recently declared his endorsement in a Washington Post op-ed, intends to actively solicit support for Trump, in addition to his own personal contribution which is expected to reach $100 million.
In his appeal to RJC board members, a group made up of most of the largest Jewish GOP donors, Adelson stresses his confidence regarding Trump’s positions on Israel, an issue that is central to Adelson and to many other Jewish Republican donors.
“He will be a tremendous president when it comes to the safety and security of Israel,” Adelson assured RJC leaders, reporting to them that he had reached this conclusion after meeting with Trump last week in New York. Trump had initially worried pro-Israel Republicans with his pledge to remain “neutral” when brokering an Israeli – Palestinian peace deal and with his refusal to commit to moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But Trump later provided clarifications and walked back some of his statement, making pro-Israel backers like Adelson more at ease with his positions.
Adelson is RJC’s largest funder but his views don’t necessarily align with those of other board members who have been active in Republican politics for decades. Most major Jewish donors chose to steer clear from Trump during the primary season, putting their money behind Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and, as the field narrowed, behind Ted Cruz.
Adelson sat out the primary contest despite endless attempts by candidates to win his support.
It is still not clear how Adelson’s endorsement of Trump and his appeal to Jewish Republican leaders will play out with top donors.
“There will be a split,” predicted Tevi Troy, a former Bush administration official who currently does not support Trump. “There are donors who are more ideological and there are those who are more partisan and will follow Adelson.”
Jewish donors have made up in the past an estimated quarter of direct funding for Republican presidential campaigns and may have played an even greater role in Super PAC funding. For Trump, who is reportedly interested in raising $1 billion, Jewish donors, if they follow Adelson’s lead, could prove valuable not only in providing major funds but also in signaling to other centrist establishment contributors that Trump represents a worthy political investment.
Some major Jewish donors, including New York hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, have expressed strong public positions against Trump and are unlikely to heed Adelson’s call.
Meanwhile on the Democratic side, frontrunner Hillary Clinton is trying to use the Adelson endorsement and the promise for major funding it entails, to fuel her own fundraising drive.
“I want to make sure you saw the news about Sheldon Adelson,” Clinton wrote in a fundraising email to supporters on Tuesday. “He pledged to raise ungodly amounts of money for Donald Trump – maybe more than $100 million.”
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.