The South Carolina primary is a week from Saturday. Before then, voters there can expect to be inundated with ads attacking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his role in Bain Capital.
“We made a $3.4 million ad buy in South Carolina, which is fairly significant,” says Rick Tyler, senior adviser to the pro-Newt Gingrich SuperPAC Winning Our Future.
“Fairly significant” hardly does justice to the SuperPAC’s plan.
If all that money were spent on 30-second spots, the average TV viewer in the Palmetto State would sit through 70 messages slashing at the legacy of Bain Capital – like this one.
Tyler is a longtime aide to Gingrich. So are others at the helm of Winning Our Future. As a SuperPAC, it’s supposed to be independent of Gingrich’s campaign. But they consciously try to deliver the message he wants voters to hear.
In this case, as Tyler puts it, “People who think they know Mitt Romney should think again.”
From all indications, Gingrich’s campaign cannot afford this kind of advertising blitz. It definitely couldn’t take a single contribution of $5 million to pay for one. But that’s what Winning Our Future did. The money came from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
He had already given the legal limit to Gingrich’s campaign. But under the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, and other recent changes in the law,
Adelson he can give as much as he wants to a SuperPAC like Winning Our Future.
Adelson made most of his money in casinos. He bought the Sands in Las Vegas, imploded it to rebuild bigger. He now has huge resorts in Singapore and Macao. In 2010, he told the CNBC show Managing Asia that he intends to keep going.
“I believe there’s enough room in Asia, not just China but all over Asia, for five to 10 Las Vegases,” he said at the time.
The growth is not without controversy. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department are both investigating allegations of corruption at those developments.
Adelson is solidly Republican, and generous with his checkbook. He’s on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and a hard-liner on protecting Israel. He’s a fan, and a friend, of Gingrich, the former House speaker and current Republican presidential candidate.
Adelson and his wife, Miriam, were the biggest backers of Gingrich’s old political organization, American Solutions For Winning the Future. They gave it nearly $8 million. But with this contribution to the SuperPAC, Adelson single-handedly has given Gingrich’s presidential bid new life beyond Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.
Big donors have always been able to shovel money into presidential elections, but SuperPACs run by professionals make it much easier.
“Now all you have to do, as a person with lots of money, is write the check,” says Bob Biersack, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money.
Biersack says the ties between a SuperPAC and a candidate make it a straightforward proposition for the donor.
“There isn’t much ambiguity about how this money will be used,” he says. “And while that may or may not have been true in the past, it’s certainly true today.”
So Gingrich can now hope that his SuperPAC will cripple Romney, just the way Romney’s SuperPAC cripplied Gingrich last month.