How corruption works in America

Sheldon Adelson looks a little like a mob boss. Acts like one, too. And yet everything in this story is perfectly legal.

Sheldon Adelson looks a little like a mob boss. Acts like one, too. And yet everything in this story is perfectly legal. Associated Press

Sheldon Adelson is used to getting what he wants.

Buying it.

As one of the richest Americans ($42 billion and change, as of this year's Forbes accounting), the 84-year-old casino magnate is living a charmed life. This week he was in Israel to mark the opening of the new United States embassy in Jerusalem. A wheelchair-bound Adelson was depicted at the joyous occasion; nevermind the less-celebratory nearby events that left dozens dead and thousands injured.

Adelson owns two newspapers, one each in the two countries he cares about. Here's how they handled the news.

Adelson bought that news coverage. He pretty much bought the news, too: Adelson and his wife Miriam spent $82.5 million to elect conservative candidates in 2016, including President Donald Trump. The Adelsons' $82.5 million total those two years is more than liberal bogeyman George Soros -- *somewhere, Glenn Beck faints* -- has spent on campaigns in two decades.

In fact, the Adelsons were less generous last election cycle than they'd been in 2012, when their outlay surpassed $93 million. 

This sort of largesse explains why Republicans nationwide are so willing to meet with Adelson and kiss his ring. Unfortuantely for those conservatives, though most of America's campaign finance rules have been loophole-poked to Swiss cheese, one or two laws are still stubbornly on the books.

Enter Norm Coleman. Almost immediately after the GOP U.S. Senator lost to Al Franken in 2008, Coleman assumed a role in the upper echelon of campaign fundraising and spending. Coleman is the chairman of the American Action Network, a "center-right 'action tank,'" according to itself.

Coleman is also a D.C. lobbyist, representing the Saudi government, among other... interest groups. Through these two activities, he keeps "the concept of service ...close to [his] heart."

Earlier this month, Coleman's "concept of service" meant flying to Las Vegas to meet with Sheldon Adelson, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and a handful of other need-to-know insiders at a room in the Venetian Hotel.

According to Politico, Coleman and Ryan, who is retiring after this year, impressed upon Adelson how important it was Republicans hold onto the majority in the U.S. House. (Democrats need to pick up 24 Republican-held seats to flip control of Congress; they are bullish on their chances.) 

Here's what happened next:

As a federally elected official, Ryan is not permitted to solicit seven-figure political donations. When Ryan (R-Wis.) left the room, Coleman made the ask and secured the $30 million contribution.

Where do you suppose Paul Ryan went when he "left the room" for this to play out?

The hotel gym, obviously. But do you think he went straight to free weights? Or warmed up with some cardio? Did he flip his baseball cap backwards? Did he watch himself in the mirror? Or did he look out the window, scanning the sidewalks to look upon the sick and the poor -- imagining them thriving in a free-market health care system -- while sneaking in a quick pump?

Asked about his role procuring the donation, Coleman told Politico he "would not discuss his dealings with Adelson."

What's there to discuss? A lobbyist, a politician, and a billionaire walk into a room. One gets up and leaves, picking the last tatters of integrity from the bottom of his fancy shoes.

Back in the room, Norm Coleman puts to work some of his noted ability to "frame solutions to challenges." In this case, that meant getting a check for $30 million from a billionaire, helping a guy who buys his way to what he wants wield power in dozens of Congressional districts, and over millions of lives.

If that's the "solution," what "challenge" was it solving? Democracy?