Some of the biggest moneymen in Republican politics are divided over how to proceed against Syria, with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson on one side and conservative businessman and financier David Koch on the other.
The division highlights how the upcoming vote on striking Syria in Congress has not only political and policy consequences for the 2016 presidential race — but potential financial ones, as well.
On Wednesday, the Republican Jewish Coalition, where Adelson is chairman of the board, sent an “action alert” to its members, urging them to call their congressmen and senators to support military strikes against Syria. Adelson, a pro-Israel hawk, was one of the biggest spenders in the 2012 presidential contest, pouring $15 million into a super PAC that supported Newt Gingrich and then tens of millions of dollars more to one backing Mitt Romney after he secured the GOP nomination.
The board of the Republican Jewish Coalition is filled with other prominent GOP donors, including hedge fund manager Paul Singer.
On the other side is David Koch, who, along with his brother, has become one of the main financial funders of the opposition to President Obama and the Democratic Party. In an interview with Yahoo! News last week, Koch said Obama would be “dead wrong” to order a strike against Syria.
“I do not think we should get involved in attacks on Syria. It’s like putting your head into a hornet’s nest,” Koch said, while attending an Americans for Prosperity conference, a conservative group he helps fund. “You’re going to get shot at from all directions. There’s all this talk about attacking the bad guys in Syria, but whom do you attack?”
Of the potential GOP 2016 presidential field, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has come out most forcefully against intervention in Syria. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, is still on the fence. He spoke forcefully on Tuesday about how the outcome in Syria is tied to American security but skeptically about how a limited strike would serve U.S. interests in the region.
Those 2016 hopefuls outside of Washington D.C. have more leeway to avoid the thorny topic. As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said earlier this week, “I’m going to leave that to the people who represent us in Congress.”