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Battling billionaires: Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson

By Laurie Bennett

September 6, 2012 at 7:45am

They have been called “the dueling pro-Israel billionaires.”

Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is spending millions of dollars to help Mitt Romney get elected. Haim Saban, who made his fortune with the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, is putting his money on Barack Obama.

While their politics are markedly different, their strategies are strikingly similar.

Each counts high-level Israeli officials in his inner circle. Saban is a longtime friend of Israel’s president, Shimon Peres. Adelson is a supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Each lavishes money not only on American campaigns, but on media, think tanks and political organizations.

Haim Saban
Haim Saban

Saban is an owner of Univision Spanish-language television network and has repeatedly expressed an interest in buying the Los Angeles Times. Adelson owns Israel Hayom, a pro-Netanyahu newspaper in Israel.

In 2002, Saban gave $5 million to Bill Clinton’s presidential library and $7 million to the Democratic National Committee for a new building. He established the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, while Adelson contributed $4.5 million to launch the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

Publicly, at least, Adelson is far outspending Saban this year, giving $20 million to Newt Gingrich before switching his support to Romney. He has vowed to spend up to $100 million to prevent the president’s re-election, contributing not only to the campaign and the major super PAC supporting Romney, but to efforts by the Republican Jewish Coalition to mobilize Jewish voters.

Sheldon Adelson
Sheldon Adelson

Saban, who was one of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most impassioned supporters in 2008, was slow to embrace Obama.

The two men did not speak in the early months of Obama’s administration, “because he has no need to speak to me—or, at least, he thinks he has no need to,” Saban told the New Yorker.

Yet on Tuesday, the New York Times published an op-ed in which Saban explained why he intended to vote for Obama’s re-election.

“Even though he could have done a better job highlighting his friendship for Israel, there’s no denying that by every tangible measure, his support for Israel’s security and well-being has been rock solid,” he wrote.

Even Saban finds cause for complaint about the role of pro-Israel money in the U.S. election.

“The facts back up the president’s staunch support of Israel,” he writes, “facts that even $100 million from a casino magnate can’t refute. (Full disclosure: I have contributed to Democratic campaigns this political cycle, though not nearly to that extent.)”

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Battling billionaires: Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson

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