The End of a Beautiful Friendship

A guest post by Eli Clifton:

Last week’s firing of Las Vegas Sands (LVS) president William Weidner by CEO Sheldon Adelson marks the end of a relationship which spanned the business and political worlds.

Weidner served on the board of the Adelson-funded — and now defunct — Freedom’s Watch and mirrored the Islamophobic rhetoric and right-wing politics of his longtime boss.

Bloomberg reported that William Weidner tried to save himself a little dignity by insisting that he had resigned from LVS. Adelson shot back, “We helped him resign a little bit,” and suggested that there had been ongoing disagreements between him and Weidner.

We blogged about Weidner and Adelson’s relationship here.

LVS has taken a beating over the past year. The assumption of huge levels of debt to fund developments in Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore, perceptions that Weidner and Adelson were overly cozy with the Chinese leadership and helped crush U.S. Congressional opposition to the Beijing Olympics earlier in the decade, recently imposed visa restrictions on mainland Chinese seeking to visit Macau, and a global financial downturn have all played a role in battering the LVS stock price from its high of $122.96 to its current $1.99 value.

In 2007, Weidner delivered a speech at the Keystone Club in Las Vegas. The speech, available here, offered some insights into the political beliefs held by Weidner (and presumably Adelson) as well as the reverence Weidner had for his boss and mentor before their relationship soured.

As our forefathers so rightly articulated in their declaration, freedom to LIVE, is the most fundamental freedom; they listed it first…they were threatened with death from a coercive economic “ism”; mercantilism…the idea that royalty could use its power to monopolize trade to enrich its treasury to finance armies to project more power and gather ever more treasure for its treasury.

The American colonies represented a drain from King George’s treasury and he sought to balance his budget through taxation – taxation, of course, without representation. Taxation without representation was their rallying cry, but it was the concept of mercantilism that threatened to kill them.

Now let’s turn to a contemporary ‘ism’ that would take away our most fundamental freedom…Our lives…it’s called Islamo-fascism.

And, talk about a very important organization we are deeply involved in…Freedom’s Watch. An organization that I am sure you will hear more about over the ensuing months. Freedom’s Watch is currently dedicated to several priorities, the most pressing of which is educating Americans to the danger of radical Islam and supporting our military to protect us from its coercive forces.

In the past, our country has survived a lot of bad ideas that would threaten our lives.

As I mentioned, our forefathers opposed Mercantilism; we and our Parents opposed National Socialism (Nazism), Fascism, and Communism…but now we face the worst, most coercive dictatorial idea of all.

While thanking those who have supported him, Weidner made it clear where he got his ideological marching orders.

And for our lead iconoclast Sheldon Adelson; perhaps the world’s most successful contrarian who has taught us that an idea shouldn’t be repeated unless it has been examined thoroughly and you stand ready to defend it… passionately.

Adelson, it should be noted, has been as viscerally antagonistic toward labor unions as he has been enthusiastic about Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud. Interestingly, he did his damnedest to defeat Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley in last November’s election, a Las Vegas’ five-term congresswoman, because she has been a strong advocate for the labor movement. Despite their long-time enmity, however, she is as much a cheerleader for the far right in Israel as he — at least, that’s what I’ve been told. Among other things, she was the co-author with Illinois Republican Rep. Mark Kirk of the letter sent to the inspector-general of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) last two weeks ago demanding that Amb. Chas Freeman be thoroughly investigated for alleged conflicts of interest.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. Weidner’s Keystone speech would have been embarassing to read, except one realizes that Weidner and his ilk had/have real power and influence. Amazing to think that “Islamo-Facism” is an even greater danger to America than Hitler or a nuclear-armed USSR. Yet the Chinese are OK because some of us make money trading with them. Given that Weidner pays effusive lip-service to the ideals of the Founders, why can’t he find it in his heart to feel for oppressed peoples, like the Tibetans and the Palestinians?

  2. Jim, I agree that free markets should be left alone by gov’t. But, are all markets free? I’d assert there are 3 different markets.

    1. free markets–vast choices, options and competitors. The customer is always right and has power over the merchant. Also, there is usually a high degree of clarity or understanding of what the good or service is. Cleaners, grocers, home improvement, cars, most wholesale and retail transactions.

    2. professional markets–many choices, limited options and competitors. The customer is hiring an expertise that exceed his understanding and is reliant on the good faith of the professional’s advice. The customer therefor is not always right. These markets are often self regulated by guilds, boards, bars of the professional’s peers. Gov’t should avoid intrusion in these markets, though due to their essential nature may wish to facilitate access to these professionals. This includes medical, legal, accounting, retail investment, title/deed services and the like.

    3. monopolies–utilities and retail banking and financial services, military suppliers, gasoline. Simply no real choice, no real substitutes no or few competitors. The customer is easily manipulated as he is totally powerless. These are essential services, goods for which there is no alternative. These companies enjoy many liberties of gov’t, easements, universal access, eminent domain services. They use gov’t more than other markets often contracting directly with the gov’t, the consumer has no power over their providers save their collected gov’t powers. Due to the opportunity of manipulation, they must be regulated carefully and should be kept small.

    I wish when you’re confronted with “Gov’t should stay out of free markets” you agree and then ask them to describe a free market. The customer ain’t always right at the bank, the phone store, the electric company. As a landscaper I resent having my marketing and business model being compared with a financial services, utility or any other bureaucratic mega-corp. I don’t get to follow fine print, legalese but operate by what ever is fair and reasonable. A restaurant will comp your bill but not the electric company. 99% of the time free market transactions are satisfactory for both parties. Dealing with the monopolies feels vastly different.

    Scott Conner

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