This week, The Wall Street Journal
reported that Sheldon and Miriam Adelson gave
$500,000 to an independent Super PAC in support of my campaign for Congress. The
report was quickly picked up by media outlets throughout the world.
say I am grateful is, understandably, an understatement. But this is not
only due to the amount donated but to the people donating as well. Sheldon and
Miriam Adelson are heroes of the Jewish people and international benefactors of
medical research. Few other individuals today have demonstrated more markedly
what great wealth can do to help rejuvenate a besieged, imperiled democracy like
the great State of Israel, and few other philanthropists have done more to
foster Jewish identity worldwide. That they do so as proud, patriotic and
civic-minded Americans adds an inspirational quality to American Jewry who
witness their work.
Almost a millennium ago Judaism’s greatest thinker,
Maimonides, wrote that the challenge of wealth is to see money as a means rather
an end. We beseech God for prosperity not merely to afford a new HDTV but as the
means by which to repair the world. Sheldon and Miriam Adelson have over the
last few years alone given more than $100 million to Birthright Israel, more
than $25m. to Yad Vashem, and hundreds of millions more to fighting disease,
establishing clinics for the poor, and other humanitarian needs.
bears mentioning given the savage attacks they have endured ever since they
announced a preparedness to spend tens of millions of dollars to defeat US
President Barack Obama. In this hyper-partisan climate, the activism of a
businessman with strong political convictions, backed by a ruling of the United
States Supreme Court, can nevertheless open him to the most scurrilous attacks
with even world-renowned publications treating the unsubstantiated allegations
of disgruntled employees as fact. That government agencies, in the wake of the
Adelsons political donations, now seem to be leaking information about
investigations that are thus far inconclusive is even more worrying and will no
doubt sow fear in others who are considering political activism.
personally witnessed the vitriol the Adelsons invite through their political
contributions. The day after the donation to the Super PAC supporting my
candidacy was announced, Aref Assaf, the president of the American Arab Forum
and a key backer of my opponent, Bill Pascrell, issued a statement to the media
saying “The Adelson money has effectively sealed the capitulation of Mr. Boteach
to the right wing and Islamophobes in the Republican Party, and their
While this was only the latest example of Assaf’s
anti-Semitic invective that has gone unchallenged by Pascrell, Sheldon Adelson
remains one of the foremost targets of those who spew hatred into the American
FAIRER PEOPLE ask whether the glut of Super PAC money is
good for America.
It is a worthy question and Mr. Adelson has been quoted
as saying that he would prefer if money were not a component of American
politics. But while I absolutely agree that it would be wonderful if
ideas rather than money were definitive in American elections – and I have
steadfastly run a Jewish-values based campaign founded entirely on new political
initiatives – I would remind those who decry Super PAC spending that the biggest
problem in American politics today is incumbency.
The vision of the
founding fathers was one of citizen-politicians leaving their farms and law
practices for a few years to serve their countries and then return to private
endeavor. George Washington could have been president for life but declined a
third term. Thomas Jefferson so hated the presidency that he pined to return to
his beloved Monticello and neglected to mention on his tombstone that he had
served as America’s chief magistrate.
What they could never have
envisioned was career politicians being elected to the United States Senate with
an 80 percent reelection rate and incumbents in the House being reelected at an
even higher and truly staggering rate of 90%.
Indeed, no more than five
to 10 incumbents lose their seats every two years.
OpenSecrets.com has a
about incumbency that sums it up well: “Few things in life are
more predictable than the chances of an incumbent member of the US House of
Representatives winning reelection. With wide name recognition, and usually an
insurmountable advantage in campaign cash, House incumbents typically have
little trouble holding onto their seats.”
Bill Pascrell, who signed the
infamous Gaza 54 attack on Israel and against whom I’m running, has been in the
House for 16 years. While I campaign against him I have to find a way to support
my family, raise money from people who think that as a challenger I am a certain
underdog, build name recognition, and try to reassure all those who are afraid
that if they come out and support me openly Pascrell will retaliate against
But while Pascrell runs he is paid his full congressional salary
with all its perks, is allowed to send franked mail (thinly veiled campaign
pieces aimed at raising positive name ID) at the taxpayer’s expense, and has a
huge complement of congressional staff to assist him. And though they are not
permitted to campaign, their responsibility for myriad other tasks sure makes
life a heck of a lot easier. Most important, there is the pork barrel spending
that an incumbent can claim to have brought into his district. These huge
investments have the practical effect of simply buying business and voters off
with money their representative says he brought from
Gerrymandering further leads to approximately 89% of all
districts being dominated by a party and giving the challenger from the other
side of the aisle little hope of prevailing.
No wonder that of 435
congressional districts, only 15 are considered toss-up seats. Even on a
presidential level there are only eight swing states where votes truly matter,
all of which makes one question the very foundation of American democracy. These
sobering facts should be kept in mind before one swallows arguments against
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the court case credited with the
creation of Super PACs, uncritically.
Before we attack outside investment
that might give a challenger some hope of prevailing, perhaps we should first
discuss the need for terms limits or some other equalizing factor.
the Adelsons contribution to the Super PAC supporting me has done is force my
challenger, Bill Pascrell, to finally wake up. Here is a man so assured of
reelection in a Democratic-leaning district that he has not even bothered to
update his website since the June primary. He refuses to debate me, respond to
me, or even campaign, so contemptuous is he of the Democratic process and the
need to actually earn the public’s vote.
To this challenger it seems a
little hypocritical for professional, lifetime politicians to attack Sheldon and
Miriam Adelson, who have done a service in giving the people of the ninth
district of New Jersey what they surely deserve: a real campaign and choice
between rival candidates and political visions, which form the very fabric of
American democracy.The writer is the Republican congressional nominee in
New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District. The international bestselling author
of 28 books, he is about to publish
The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in
the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. shmuleyforcongress.com
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