Billionaire tycoon and top donor to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Sheldon Adelson, has filed a $60 million dollar lawsuit against the National Jewish Democratic Council for libel. The lawsuit claims He claims, 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 today 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.