Whether or not there is prostitution in the Macau casinos owned by big-time GOP donor and casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson isn't the point of his lawsuit against a Jewish organization he accuses of libel. The point is that Adelson wants to distance himself from the charge that he personally gave the green light to having prostitutes working in his facilities, and he wants $60 million and a printed retraction from the National Jewish Democratic Council for saying he did. The allegation comes from a lawsuit by a former executive in the Macau branch of Adelson's Las Vegas Sands casinos, who accused Adelson of personally approving prostitution in his casinos, something Adelson stringently denies.
Adelson, for those who are just starting to hear about the guy, is one of the biggest donors in the 2012 campaign, and has promised "limitless" contributions to the leading super PAC supporting Mitt Romney. Perhaps the best background you can read on him comes from Connie Bruck's superb 2008 profile of him in The New Yorker, which explores his background in hard-line conservative Israeli politics as well as his interests in China. Last month, Adelson pledged millions of dollars to help Republicans reach Jewish voters, putting him at odds with a largely Democratic voting block. So it's no surprise that some of the loudest criticism of him has come from Democratic Jewish political organizations.
The casino magnate sued the NJDC for circulating a petition calling on Mitt Romney to return his "tainted money," in which NJDC president David Harris cited reports of the lawsuit against Adelson.
Under U.S. libel law, it's one thing for a complainant to make that accusation in a lawsuit, which Adelson is fighting in court, and for news organizations to report fact the accusation was made, which they've done along with Adelson's denial. But it's a different thing entirely for an organization such as NJDC to use the as-yet unproven allegation in a referendum on Adelson's character, and that's what Adelson is using as the basis for his suit.
"We will not be bullied into submission, and we will not be silenced by power. This is not Putin’s Russia, and in America, political speech regarding one of the most well-known public figures in our country is a fundamental right. One would think the person making greatest use of the Citizens United ruling would understand this."
They might to do well to keep in mind the fact that Adelson's a gambling magnate, and he's used to setting the odds. Vegas, after all, was not built on winners.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.