NJDC Chairman Urges Sheldon Adelson to Dismiss $60M Libel Suit

Las Vegas Billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, was informed that Marc R. Stanley put out a public press release suggesting that the casino mogul dismiss his lawsuit preferring to settle their differences on the strength of ideas. Whether Adelson is interested in Stanley’s proposal or not is not yet known.  Adelson recently filed a $60 million dollar lawsuit against the National Jewish Democratic Council for libel.  The lawsuit claims that the NJDC, its president, David Harris, and its chairman, Marc Stanley, “conveyed to the public that Mr. Adelson personally approved of and profited from prostitution” at his resorts.

The suit is over an article that Adelson says was authored by Harris and posted on the NJDC website asserting Adelson approved of prostitution in his Macau casinos and urging Romney to cease accepting his donations. The article cites allegations made in a separate lawsuit by an employee of Sands China Ltd. (1928), Adelson says. Adelson denies the claims.

The suit goes on to state that the NJDC purposefully tried “to advance their perceived political interests by assassinating Mr. Adelson’s character, punishing him for exercising his right to make monetary contributions to political causes and candidates of his choice, and demeaning him within the Jewish community.”

Almost immediately the NJDC decided to cancel the campaign when it realized the charges against Adelson were false.

Reuters reported that in addition to his claim for $10 million in compensatory damages Adelson is seeking $50 million in punitive damages, bringing the total claim to $60 million.

In an op-ed that ran in the Jerusalem Post on July 9, Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz dissociated himself from the NJDC attacks on Adelson:

The lawsuit alleges that the group went well over their Constitutional right to free speech and became malicious when they published demeaning and slanderous materials which they knew were false.

Adelson grew up in Boston in near poverty and is a shining example of the American dream. He is a self-made multi-billionaire who has contributed significantly to the world of modern technology and to the economic growth of Las Vegas and other areas. His generosity has helped repair the world.

Earlier this week, Politico reported that Adelson’s attorney had sent letters to both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the NJDC requesting apologies. The DCCC complied, but the NJDC defiantly refused, as their statement on their website today confirmed:

“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. To be sure, referencing mainstream press accounts examining the conduct of a public figure and his business ventures—as we did—is wholly appropriate. Indeed, it is both an American and a Jewish obligation to ask hard questions of powerful individuals like Mr. Adelson, just as it is incumbent upon us to praise his wonderful philanthropic endeavors.

“We know that we were well within our rights, and we will defend ourselves against this SLAPP suit as far and as long as necessary. We simply will not be bullied, and we will not be silenced.”

Politico described the final communications to the NJDC from Adelson’s attorney’s prior to the filing of the lawsuit today:

Sheldon Adelson, who got an unusual public correction and apology from the DCCC after his lawyers sent a letter demanding one after the group pushed a damaging story about him, is now going after the National Jewish Democratic Council.

The NJDC “recently” got a letter from Adelson’s lawyers, the group confirmed, but declined to comment on how it plans to address it.

But sources described it as similar to the one Adelson’s lawyers sent the DCCC, which was over an email blast about a story claiming Adelson was aware of prostitution going on at some of his Macau holdings. Adelson’s lawyer and aides have denied that.

The NJDC sent out an email highlighting the prostitution story and other negative headlines.

“It’s well known that Adelson makes tremendous sums of money through his casinos in China,  which — according to 2008 Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain (AZ) — means that Chinese “foreign money” (to quote McCain) is flooding our political system,” read the email that went out on July 5. “But this week, reports surfaced that in addition to his anti-union and allegedly corrupt business practices, Adelson “personally approved” of prostitution in his Macau casinos.”

Adelson successfully sued the Daily Mail of London for libel in 2008. The newspaper had accused him of pursuing “despicable business practices” and having “habitually and corruptly bought political favour”. Adelson won the libel case, which was described as “a grave slur on Mr Adelson’s personal integrity and business reputation”, and he won a judgment.

This history of success will perhaps fuel Adelson’s pursuit of the NJDC, giving him confidence that he will succeed.

Knowing Adelson’s intense persistence, Marc R. Stanley, chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council put out a press release requesting Adelson to pull his defamation lawsuit.

The release in its entirety reads:

Sheldon Adelson sued me, the National Jewish Democratic Council, and NJDC President and CEO, David Harris, on August 8 for defamation. The back story is that the NJDC circulated a petition urging the Republican National Committee and the Romney campaign to cease taking Adelson’s money until public allegations about his overseas business practices were resolved. Even Republican Sen. John McCain publicly expressed concern about “foreign money” (his term) from Adelson’s Chinese ventures flooding our political system.

Our petition created a minor ruckus in the Jewish communal world — Jewish agencies that benefit from Adelson’s incredible generosity publicly criticized us. Yet the petition itself only came after weeks of allegations about Adelson in the news media and on the Internet. Indeed, a Google search for such reports as of August 7, 2012 yielded almost 1 million results. Nevertheless, in response to the criticism, we took down our petition and criticisms of Adelson from our website in the interest of shalom bayit.

Apparently, that was not enough for Adelson.

It appears that Adelson, with his billions of dollars, not only wants to control political speech and buy the election for the Republican side. He also wants to stifle the exercise of free speech by a small group of Democratic Jews. This is a classic SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suit, one which the multiple lawyers and law firms he has allegedly consulted surely have advised him he cannot win because he is undoubtedly a public figure and has thrust himself into the political arena.

It is ironic that a billionaire who is taking more advantage of the “free speech” aspects of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case than any other American citizen now seeks to stifle our free speech.

The difference is that President Barack Obama is the target of Adelson’s political speech. Adelson has given millions of dollars to the Republican Jewish Coalition to be used to wrongfully smear Obama’s record on Israel. This is the same fellow who gave over $20 million to a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich, who promptly offered the unhelpful opinion that the Palestinians are an invented people, a view close to Adelson’s heart. He has also offered that he is willing to spend up to $100 million to support his second or third choice candidate: Mitt Romney.

And that’s the danger of Citizens United. One billionaire can control the conversation and set the agenda. I understand that Adelson wants us all to hear his message, but does that mean he has the right to silence others who disagree with his position?

Adelson told me personally that he is a Jewish Republican for only two issues: He believes Republicans are better for Israel and he believes Republicans will eliminate the estate tax. I do not believe the vast majority of American Jews will agree with his views, especially when they hear the true facts instead of a one-sided campaign.

So here is my suggestion for Adelson. Let’s put money aside and settle this on the strength of ideas.

Why don’t you and I agree to two debates? You decide the forum and structure of the first and I’ll decide the forum and structure of the second. We can debate Obama’s record on Israel and we can debate the estate tax. And we can debate the differences between Democrats and Republicans on choice, healthcare, education, separation of church and state, marriage equality, poverty, social security, social justice and any other tikkun olam issue you wish.

And drop your silly lawsuit — you are going to lose and you are not going to bully us or silence us because of your wealth. Thankfully we live in a country that protects our ability to speak freely through our rights under the First Amendment.

It doesn’t seem likely that Adelson will provide Stanley with his desired response, however, you never know what the Billionaire Casino owner may do.

We will stay close to this developing story and keep you up today if anything changes .

 

Contributor DiMarkco Chandler. Marc R. Stanley is the chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

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