by Kira Lerner
April 24, 2015

This weekend, Republican presidential hopefuls, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), will travel to Las Vegas to audition for billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s backing at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s spring meeting. In their speeches, the candidates will make their pitch to Adelson that they mostly closely share his interests.

Mega donor Adelson and his wife Miriam spent nearly $150 million on the 2012 election — more than the Koch brothers — and are likely to match that amount this campaign cycle. With his $32 billion net worth, Adelson was the single largest campaign donor in American history.

Early in the last presidential election, Adelson made a decision to give a majority of his donations to conservative nonprofits which do not disclose donors. At the time, Adelson said he believed the media’s use of the phrase “casino mogul” when discussing his contributions is not helpful to the people he is trying to elect. By the time President Obama was reelected, Adelson had given close to $50 million of his contributions to dark money groups that were created after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stream of rulings against political spending limits.

But even though his donations may not be disclosed, his intentions are still transparent.

Last year, the “Sheldon Adelson primary,” as it has been called, auditioned Gov. Chris Christie (R), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), among others. Those candidates and the ones speaking this year will all try to one-up each other by appealing to the policies Adelson most strongly supports.

Adelson owes hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes each year, a low amount considering his wealth that he achieves through loopholes like shifting his stock holdings in ways that exempt the transfers from federal taxes. The GOP candidates speaking at this weekend’s meeting have all proposed making his rate even lower.

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