Top Republican campaign donor Sheldon Adelson is suing the National Jewish Democratic Council, accusing it of libeling him by saying that he personally approved of prostitution at his Macau casinos.
In a lawsuit filed today in federal court in New York’s Southern District, Adelson is seeking at least $60 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands, Adelson has a net worth of about $18.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making him the 32nd richest person in the world.
The NJDC’s “goal was to advance their perceived political interests by assassinating Mr. Adelson’s character, punishing him for exercising his right to make monetary contributions to political causes and candidates of his choice, and demeaning him within the Jewish community,” the lawsuit claims.
The NJDC said in a statement on its Web site that it “will not be bullied into submission.”
“To be sure, referencing mainstream press accounts examining the conduct of a public figure and his business ventures — as we did — is wholly appropriate,” the statement says.
Adelson and his wife have contributed $36 million to outside groups supporting presidential challenger Mitt Romney and other federal Republican candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s more than twice what any other donor has given, according to the Washington-based group’s research. Adelson was the star fundraiser accompanying other fundraisers with Republican Mitt Romney in his recent trip to Jerusalem.
The big money has attracted the attention of groups supportive of President Barack Obama. Even Obama’s campaign has mentioned Adelson by name. In a recent fundraising pitch, the campaign pointed out that “188,679 grassroots donors with a $53 average gift = one Sheldon Adelson with a $10,000,000 pledge.”
Adelson believes he has been maliciously attacked by the NJDC.
In a July 3 write-up on its Web site, the NJDC asked Romney and other Republicans to stop accepting “tainted” money from Adelson, saying the casino owner “personally approved of prostitution” at his Macau casinos.
A similar claim was repeated by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which last week issued a retraction and apology to Adelson. The prostitution allegation comes from a a former Las Vegas Sands executive who is embroiled in a lawsuit with Adelson, according to the Associated Press.
Adelson took that mea culpa to the NJDC, but the group refused to apologize, according to the lawsuit.