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What gambling industry money has done on Newt Gingrich's behalf

No single person, outside the candidates themselves, has had more raw impact on the presidential election than casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, via his donations to a pro-Gingrich 'super PAC.'

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Asked why Adelson gave Winning Our Future $5 million (Adelson’s wife, Miriam, delivered a second $5 million), Gingrich said in an interview on NBC: “He knows I’m very pro-Israel, and that’s the central value of his life.” Miriam Adelson was born in Israel and served in the Israeli military.

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“Our motivation for helping Newt is simple and should not be mistaken for anything other than the fact that we hold our friendship with him very dear and are doing what we can as private citizens to support his candidacy,” the Adelsons said in a statement.

But any point of congruence between the interests of a corporation and the capacity of a politician to help out is grist for alternative versions of possible motives behind a big gift.

What's known is that Adelson fought hard and successfully in the 1990s to block unionization at his Las Vegas casinos. Currently, the Department of Justice and the US Securities Exchange Commission are investigating his Las Vegas Sands Corp. for alleged bribery of foreign officials in Macau, where he owns a casino that now produces more revenue than his Las Vegas operations.

“Whenever you have big-money donations, there is always a question of motivation,” says Ed Bender of the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

The gambling industry itself is going through a building surge, he adds, noting that “many states are opening up to gambling as a way to generate revenue.

“This is the third major expansion of gambling in the history of the country, and every time we do this we wind up with a major corruption wave,” he says.

Gambling interests contributed outsized donations to other super PACs, as well. The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, for example, which owns seven casinos in the southeast part of the state, on Dec. 29 contributed $50,000 to a super PAC supporting Texas Gov. Rick Perry, when prospects for the governor's  presidential run were already tanking. But the governor is not term-limited in Texas, analysts note. A super PAC contribution can also be seen as a way to give outsized contributions to support a sitting governor, otherwise banned by Texas campaign finance law.

“Generally speaking, when the tribes give it’s some kind of gambling issue,” says Bill Allison, editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation, a public-interest group in Washington. A spokeswoman for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma did not return a request for comment. 

RECOMMENDED: Eight reasons to ‘mute’ super PAC ads 

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