Does billionaire Sheldon Adelson have the courage to face his critics and debate the issues of this campaign or does he prefer to hide behind his high-priced lawyers and try to intimidate his critics into silence with threats of costly litigation?
A day after the casino mogul sued the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) for $60 million for libel, the group's lay leader called on the litigious billionaire to drop his "silly" suit and debate him on the issues instead.
Adelson charged NJDC, its chair, Marc R. Stanley, and its president and CEO, David Harris, with posting a "maliciously false and defamatory" blog item on the group's web site accusing him of having "approved of and profited from prostitution" at his Macau casinos.
Adelson, one of the world's wealthiest men and the largest single donor to Republican political campaigns this year, has reportedly pledged $100 million to defeat President Barack Obama and persuade Jews to leave the Democratic Party.
NJDC defended its posting as having "consisted of press reports based on statements made in an unrelated lawsuit" filed against Adelson's firm by a former employee. In the face of considerable criticism from Jewish groups that had benefitted from Adelson's philanthropy, Stanley said, the offending material was removed from the group's website. But no apology was issued, as Adelson had demanded.
Stanley accused Adelson of being driven by a desire "to control political speech and buy the election for the Republican side" as well as "to stifle the exercise of free speech by a small group of Democratic Jews."
He challenged Adelson to two debates on Obama's record on Israel and the estate tax because, Stanley said, Adelson personally told him he is bankrolling the Republicans because he believes they are better on Israel and will repeal the inheritance tax. A second debate, Stanley added, would focus on differences between the two parties on "choice, healthcare, education, separation of church and state, marriage equality, poverty, social security, social justice and any other tikkun olam issue you wish."
Stanley told Adelson to "drop your silly lawsuit" because "you are going to lose and you are not going to bully us or silence us because of your wealth."
A Rolling Stone profile of Adelson said he "simply loves to sue," noting that he filed over 150 lawsuits in Clarke County, Nevada, in 10 years, including against his own sons. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nevada), a former employee, has been quoted saying Adelson "seeks to dominate politics and public policy through the raw power of money."
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