Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis Jockey for Dr. Miriam Adelson Campaign Money

Posted on: August 3, 2023, 12:51h. 

Last updated on: August 3, 2023, 01:37h.

GOP 2024 presidential candidates are scurrying to prop up their campaign war chests, and in the Republican Party, the bank for the past several presidential election cycles has been held by the Adelsons. They are one of the country’s richest families that amassed their significant wealth through casino gambling.

Donald Trump Ron DeSantis Dr. Miriam Adelson Sheldon
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis dines with Dr. Miriam Adelson in April at the Museum of Tolerance in Israel. Dr. Adelson is expected to resume her and her late husband’s political contributions following a few off years because of the pandemic. (Image: Axios)

Dr. Miriam Adelson is the largest shareholder of Las Vegas Sands, the casino empire founded by her late husband. Sheldon Adelson died in January 2021 after a battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Between the 2016 presidential election through the 2020 cycle that saw Joe Biden oust Donald Trump from the White House, the Adelsons gave more than $200 million to GOP federal candidates. After initially preferring U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) in 2016, Mr. Adelson got behind Trump after he emerged in the primary and became the party’s candidate to go against Hillary Clinton.

But Mr. Adelson voiced frustration during Trump’s presidency and threatened to cut off his contributions after Republicans lost the 2018 midterms. Since Mr. Adelson’s death, Dr. Adelson has significantly reduced the family’s political spending. The Adelson trust donated $37 million to Republican candidates in 2021, and about $23 million last year.

She cited the COVID-19 pandemic and Sands’ decision to suspend its dividend as her primary reasons for donating less money to political campaigns.

Campaign Speculation

In July, Sands announced the resumption of its dividend, something the late Mr. Adelson had pledged to be a staple of the company he built, and which formerly owned The Venetian and Palazzo resorts on the Las Vegas Strip. The dividend resumption awarded Dr. Adelson with about $87 million for the second quarter, a substantial amount, but just a fraction of what she and her husband were regularly collecting before the pandemic.

Sands derives the bulk of its earnings from its operations in Macau. China’s decision to maintain “zero-COVID” lengthened economic hardship in the casino enclave until late last year.

With her bank accounts again receiving regular deposits, speculation is high that Dr. Adelson will again be a major contributor to the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential candidate. Trump has long maintained a close relationship with the Adelsons, and in 2018, bestowed Dr. Adelson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her philanthropic and humanitarian work.

Trump also relocated the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem during his presidency, which the Adelsons strongly desired. Both Adelsons were in attendance in the front row when the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem opened in May 2018.

DeSantis Appeal

While Trump is expected to be Dr. Adelson’s first choice for 2024, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is campaigning for her political backing.

DeSantis was photographed in April dining with the woman worth an estimated $35.8 billion. The dinner was in Israel at the Museum of Tolerance. DeSantis also met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

The Adelsons have a lengthy history with DeSantis, too. The couple donated more than $500K to his gubernatorial campaign in 2018.

Trump remains the betting front-runner for the GOP ticket. On the online political betting exchange PredictIt, bettors give the former president a 58% chance of securing the GOP ticket for the third consecutive presidential election. DeSantis shares imply a chance of only about 17%.