Gingrich: Only Campaign Finance Reform Will Limit Billionaire Influence

The former House speaker says the courting of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson by GOP candidates this weekend reflects the state of politics today.

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - MARCH 08: Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, speaks during the 41st annual Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord International Hotel and Conference Center on March 8, 2014 in National Harbor, Maryland. The conference, a project of the American Conservative Union, brings together conservatives polticians, pundits and voters for three days of speeches and workshops. (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)
National Journal
Billy House
March 28, 2014, 10:31 a.m.

Newt Gin­grich says all the at­ten­tion to be paid in Las Ve­gas by GOP of­fi­cials and wan­nabe pres­id­ents this week­end to bil­lion­aire cam­paign donor Shel­don Ad­el­son — a pat­ron of Gin­grich’s 2012 White House bid — is something that won’t go away un­til genu­ine cam­paign fin­ance re­form oc­curs.

“Wheth­er it’s the Koch broth­ers or [George] Sor­os on the left or Shel­don,” said the former House speak­er in an in­ter­view with Na­tion­al Journ­al on Fri­day, tick­ing off oth­er cam­paign mega-donors, “if you’re go­ing to have an elec­tion pro­cess that rad­ic­ally fa­vors bil­lion­aires and is dis­crim­in­at­ing against the middle class — which we now have — then bil­lion­aires are go­ing to get a lot of at­ten­tion.”

Gin­grich was asked about the gath­er­ing of some top Re­pub­lic­ans in Las Ve­gas for what of­fi­cially is the spring meet­ing of the Re­pub­lic­an Jew­ish Co­ali­tion.

Some have even taken to dub­bing the event the “Shel­don Primary,” for the casino mogul who al­most single-handedly bank­rolled Gin­grich’s pres­id­en­tial can­did­acy in 2012 and is said to be look­ing for an­oth­er horse to back for the White House in 2016.

In fact, sev­er­al news out­lets in­clud­ing The Wash­ing­ton Post re­por­ted this week that vari­ous one-on-one chats between the 80-year-old Ad­el­son and po­ten­tial Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ees could be the most im­port­ant as­pect of the Las Ve­gas event.

The list of at­tendees in­cludes former Flor­ida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie, Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walk­er, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, ac­cord­ing to pub­lished re­ports.

So, what could be at stake in woo­ing Ad­el­son? In­de­pend­ent ana­lyses by groups such as ProP­ub­lica have de­term­ined that Ad­el­son spent more money on elec­tions in 2012 than any­one else in his­tory. ProP­ub­lica de­term­ined after comb­ing through Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion and IRS re­cords that Ad­el­son and his wife, Miri­am, spent at least $98 mil­lion dur­ing that elec­tion cycle.

The money went to at least 34 dif­fer­ent can­did­ates and groups, with con­tri­bu­tions ran­ging from $2,000 for a Flor­ida con­gres­sion­al can­did­ate to $30 mil­lion for Re­store Our Fu­ture, the su­per PAC that sup­por­ted 2012 GOP nom­in­ee Mitt Rom­ney.

ProP­ub­lica also found that Ad­el­son gave $20 mil­lion to Win­ning Our Fu­ture, a su­per PAC back­ing Gin­grich’s cam­paign be­fore he called it quits; $23 mil­lion to Amer­ic­an Cross­roads, a con­ser­vat­ive su­per PAC; and $5 mil­lion each to the Con­gres­sion­al Lead­er­ship Fund and the YG Ac­tion Fund, both of which sup­por­ted Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates for Con­gress.

Gin­grich is not at­tend­ing the gath­er­ing this week­end. But when asked by Na­tion­al Journ­al about all the fo­cus on Ad­el­son’s role, he said, “Shel­don’s a gen­er­ous guy and he can at­tract a lot of play­ers who want to come and hang out with him, and then they col­lect­ively at­tract a num­ber of po­ten­tial can­did­ates.”

But Gin­grich ad­ded, “The truth is, we des­per­ately need an elec­tion re­form which al­lows can­did­ates to re­ceive the same amount of money as su­per PACs.” House Speak­er John Boehner is also ex­pec­ted to at­tend the event this week­end.

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