Call it proof that he has truly arrived as a political figure: Las Vegas casino owner and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson is demanding that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee retract claims it has made in two press releases that Adelson’s funds come in part from “Chinese prostitution money.”
On Monday, lawyers on Adelson’s behalf sent a letter to the DCCC claiming it had defamed their client by “maliciously branding Mr. Adelson as a pimp” who encouraged and profited from prostitution at his hotels in Macau, China. It demands the campaign organization retract and apologize for the claim. Otherwise, the “false allegations constitute libel per se entitling Mr. Adelson to compensatory and punitive damages.”
The attorneys’ letter cites a press release from the organization in June 29 and subsequent one on July 2. Politifact reports that those claims were made in races in Ohio and Wisconsin, respectively, and also used in ones in Tennessee and Pennsylvania. The fact checking organization has rated the DCCC’s claim as completely false, giving it a “pants on fire” rating.
The genesis of the prostitution claim is an Associated Press story about a lawsuit from Steven Jacobs, a fired ex-employee of Adelson. In the suit, Jacobs alleges that he began a new effort to rid a Macau hotel and casino of any prostitution activity only to be told by other executives that “that the prior prostitution strategy had been personally approved by Adelson.” The story does not elaborate on what the prior strategy was and there appears to be no claim, even by Jacobs, that the hotel itself was employing or otherwise profiting from prostitutes. In context, it appears that Jacobs is alleging that Adelson decided aggressively kicking out anybody suspected of engaging in prostitution would be too disruptive.
The AP story quotes a spokesman for the casino owner as saying: “Mr. Adelson has always objected to and maintained a strong policy against prostitution on our properties and any accusation to the contrary represents a blatant and reprehensible personal attack on Mr. Adelson’s character.”
Somebody at the DCCC spotted the story and decided to use it in various House races. Their July 2 press release was for a Wisconsin race and asks: “What will Congressman Sean Duffy do when his Chinese prostitution money comes from billionaire Sheldon Adelson?” The billionaire does not appear to have made any direction contributions to Duffy, though he has given to the National Republican Congressional Committee and GOP leadership political action committees. The charges were repeated in press releases attacking Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio, Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., and Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-Penn.
Poltifact notes there is no actual proof of prostitution claim, just the word of a disgruntled ex-employee — and the AP story doesn’t even report that Jacobs alleged Adelson profited, I would add. It says of the DCCC’s allegation: “The claim that Adelson’s donations to these other (GOP) groups amount to ‘Chinese prostitution money’ is dubious enough that inserting the word ‘allegedly’ can’t save it.”