David Harris, the president of the National Jewish Democratic Council, has asked Jewish Democrats to sign a petition demanding that Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican Party stop taking campaign contributions from Sheldon Adelson, and return those already received. They claim his money is “tainted.”
This absurd allegation comes from a highly questionable, if not totally discredited, source – namely a former employee who was fired and is suing Adelson. He claims that Adelson approved of prostitution in his Macau casinos. Harris has apparently credited this claim even though no evidence has been submitted to support it and no finding has been made by any court. Has he never heard of “due process” or the “presumption of innocence?”
I know Sheldon Adelson and I have worked with him on several matters relating to Israel and the Jewish community. I have spoken on behalf of the wonderful school he has built in Las Vegas, and have had the pleasure of teaching one of the brilliant graduates of that school.
Adelson was deeply involved in the creation of the Birthright Israel Program, which has had extraordinary success in exposing young Jews to Israel. It’s hard to find anyone who has done as much for the Jewish community as Sheldon Adelson.
Adelson grew up in Boston in near poverty and is a shining example of the American dream. He is a self-made multi-billionaire who has contributed significantly to the world of modern technology and to the economic growth of Las Vegas and other areas. His generosity has helped repair the world.
I AM a Democrat and do not agree with many of Adelson’s political views, but I think it’s outrageous for the National Jewish Democratic Council to level unfounded allegations against Adelson. They do not speak for me, and for the many other Jews who admire Adelson’s contributions to the world, to America, to Israel and to the Jewish community.
I don’t know who Harris purports to speak for as president of the NJDC, but his partisan gamesmanship is an embarrassment to many Jewish Democrats. The attack comes with particular ill grace from a Jewish organization, considering all that Adelson has done for Jewish causes, and considering the fact that there is nothing uniquely “Jewish” about the questionable allegations against him.
Moreover, the demand that Mitt Romney return Adelson’s contributions is absurd. If all candidates had to return the contributions of every businessman against whom questionable allegations were made in a vengeful lawsuit, millions of dollars would have to be returned by hundreds of candidates all around the country.
Consider just one highly publicized example: the million dollars given by comedian Bill Maher to a super PAC supporting Barack Obama.
I single out Maher, whose comedy I generally like, because he said that he “decided to become the Sheldon Adelson of the Obama campaign,” and because extremists on the right have similarly demanded that the super PAC return Maher’s contribution, claiming it is tainted by his misogynistic rants against female Republicans such as Sarah Palin, against whom he has used vile, sexist language.
This is how The Christian Science Monitor delicately characterized Maher’s remarks: “[H]e has said some very bad things about Sarah Palin and other Republican women. He’s started with ‘bimbo’ and then moved on into derogatory gynecological references that are too obscene for us to repeat.”
I’m sure that if the Democrats were to apply David Harris’ “Adelson test” to all the contributions they have received from Hollywood moguls and other wealthy business people, they wouldn’t like the results.
So let extremists in both parties stop this nonsense about returning “tainted” contributions and focus on the real issues that separate the Democrats from the Republicans.
The writer is a Harvard law professor and political commentator.