Sheldon Adelson: Casinos, Political Campaigns, Taxes and the Chinese Triads
Reuters (one year ago) A Hong Kong jury convicted four men of a conspiracy to commit bodily harm and a fifth of soliciting a murder. At first, the men had been ordered to break the arms and legs of a dealer at the Sands Macau (owned by Sheldon Adelson) who was suspected of helping a gambler cheat millions of dollars from Adelson's casino.
Later, a call went out to murder the dealer. But then one of the gangsters balked and reported the plans to authorities. The mastermind was a leader of one of the organized crime groups in China known as triads.
Now Sheldon Adelson is reported to be facing a federal investigation over whether his company violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits bribing foreign officials. The investigation stems from a lawsuit filed by a former executive at the Sands Macau. Steven C. Jacobs claims he was told the keep quiet about investigations of local officials and the possible presence of the triads (Chinese organized crime).
But Adelson wasn't the only Las Vegas casino tycoon tied to Chinese organized crime. Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian (a friend of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) is the owner of MGM and was doing business with Pansy Ho, daughter of billionaire Stanley Ho - - who was named by the Canadian Government, citing the Manila Standard newspaper, as having a link to the Kung Lok Triad (Chinese mafia) and being linked to several illegal activities during the period 1999–2002.
Stanley Ho's ties to Chinese organized crime have also been reported by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, citing a U.S. Senate committee and several government agencies, when the state investigated his ties to MGM Mirage. The New York Times also ran an article, but it is no longer posted.
Stanley Ho built his fortune over 50 years after the Macau government granted him and his partners a gambling monopoly in 1962. The monopoly wasn’t renewed after 2001. (Why?) Then Macau granted licenses to casino rivals Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands and Steve Wynn’s Wynn Resorts.
(Below) The son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, Sheldon Adelson is seen posing with his Israeli wife, Miriam. Adelson's young sons also carry Israeli passports. (So how is President Obama less American?)
Today the casino king Sheldon Adelson is up $21.5 billion in the past three years because of the shares he owns in his Las Vegas Sands. In 2011 alone, Adelson made $7 billion. Under Newt Gingrich's proposed tax plan, capital gains, dividends and interest income would not be taxable.
In an interview for Forbes, when asked about trying to personally buy the presidential election for Newt Gingrich, Sheldon Adelson rolled his eyes and said, “Those people are either jealous or professional critics. They like to trash other people. It’s unfair that I’ve been treated unfair—but it doesn’t stop me. I might give $10 million or $100 million to Gingrich.”
Paul Egerman, a Patriotic Millionaire and CEO of e-Scription says, "Some rich people think that, because they are rich, they somehow have superior knowledge, which entitles them to control our country. And what do these rich people want to do with their superior knowledge and Super Pac power? They, of course, want to reward themselves with lower tax rates, while at the same time reducing Medicare and Social Security benefits for the middle class.”
Egerman wasn't referring to Sheldon Adelson, but he might as well have been.
Egerman was referring to another billionaire, Kenneth Griffin, founder of the hedge fund
Citadel and a donor for Mitt Romney. In
an interview with the Chicago Tribune Griffin was asked if he thought rich people had too great of an influence on politics.
"I think they actually have an insufficient influence," he responded. "Those who have enjoyed the benefits of our system more than ever now owe a duty to protect the system that has created the greatest nation on this planet."
Kenneth Griffin must have been referring to protecting a system with disproportionate tax cuts for the most wealthy. Mitt Romney's tax plan would keep the historically low taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest income the same as there are now, ever since the Bush tax cuts of 2003.
Patriotic Millionaire and CEO of NuCompass Mobility Services Frank Patitucci said, "Mr. Griffin needs to be reminded that the U.S. is a democracy, not a plutocracy. One person, one vote. Not one dollar, one vote.”
Another Patriotic Millionaire, Rochelle Kaplan, said “Due to considerable donations by the super-wealthy to members of Congress, we now have vastly lower rates on dividend income and on income tax rates for the richest Americans that we previously had. This, to me, shows plenty of influence on politics and policy.”
The 2001 tax rates were rolled back across all income categories, with the upper income earners benefiting more. But in 2003 the most significant reductions were taxes on dividends and capital gains taxes. Typically, these taxes are on investment income, and those cuts tend to give a bigger break to taxpayers with higher incomes.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that the top 5 percent of earners (those making about $225,000 or more) received 30.5 percent of the tax benefits in 2008, according to their analysis. But zoom out to the top 20 percent, and their share is 47.8 percent, making the tax cuts very disproportionate.
Forbes started tracking America’s 400 richest on an annual basis back in 1982. Not much has changed over those 25 years (except they're much richer). The top of the list includes Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison, the Koch brothers, the Waltons (of Walmart), George Soros, and Sheldon Adelson. 400 Americans now hold $4.6 trillion in combined net worth.
Last week, for instance, former U.S. secretary of labor Robert Reich noted that America’s 400 richest “have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans put together” and called for a new tax levy on grand fortune.
“Let Santorum and Romney duke it out for who will cut taxes the most on the wealthy - - and shred the public services everyone else depends on,” Reich urged. “The rest of us ought to be having a serious discussion about a wealth tax.”
The U.S. once did have an "excessive profits tax".
In a L.A. Times op-ed piece law professors Bruce Ackerman and Anne Alstott say," The more serious inequality problem facing the United States involves overall wealth, not just income. While the top 1% of Americans earned 21% of the nation's income, they owned a staggering 35% of the wealth...We should be taxing that wealth directly, and not merely focusing on million-dollar incomes...Rather than draconian cuts to Medicaid or Medicare, why not a wealth tax?”
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, The Conservative Case for a Wealth Tax, Ronald McKinnon, from the Stanford University, Department of Economics, also asks for a wealth tax.
Globally (where other countries do have a wealth tax), the top 1% has also fared much better. Wealth-X has identified nearly 2,500 billionaires, more than double that of the just released Forbes Global Billionaires list. But America's billionaires pay the least amount in taxes.
What does it say about the character and humanity of a man like Sheldon Adelson, who will be 80 years old in August, is worth $25 billion, can buy 167 of America's most expensive mansions*, and might be willing to spend $100 million on a presidential candidate just to see his tax rates lower than they already are -- all while millions of Americans remain unemployed, and millions more need to rely on Social Security and Medicare.
I wouldn't call Sheldon Adelson just greedy, but evil and psychotic (like many of the ultra-wealthy that the Republicans so vehemently defend).
When Sheldon Adelson dies, who gets his money? Israel? And that's another reason why inheritance taxes should also be taxed as regular income, just like capital gains, dividends and interest income should.
Get to know Sheldon Adelson better through some of his past controversies.