This piece first appeared at
TomDispatch. Read Tom Engelhardt's introduction.
Billionaires with an axe to grind, now is your time. Not since the days before a bumbling crew of would-be break-in artists set into motion
the fabled Watergate scandal, leading to
the first far-reaching restrictions on money in American politics, have you been so free to meddle. There is no limit to the amount of money you can give to elect your friends and allies to political office, to defeat those with whom you disagree, to shape or stunt or kill policy, and above all to influence the tone and content of political discussion in this country.
Today, politics is a rich man's game. Look no further than the 2012 elections and that season's biggest donor, 79-year-old casino mogul Sheldon Adelson
. He and his wife, Miriam, shocked the political class by first giving $16.5 million
in an effort to make Newt Gingrich the Republican presidential nominee. Once Gingrich exited the race, the Adelsons invested more than $30 million
in electing Mitt Romney. They donated millions more to support GOP candidates running for the House and Senate, to block
a pro-union measure in Michigan, and to bankroll
the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other conservative stalwarts (which waged their own campaigns mostly to helpRepublican candidates for Congress). All told, the Adelsons donated $94 million during the 2012 cycle - nearly four times the previous record
set by liberal financier George Soros. And that's only the money we know about. When you add in so-called dark money
, one estimate puts their total giving at closer to $150 million
It was not one of Adelson's better bets. Romney went down in flames; the Republicans failed to retake the Senate and conceded seats in the House; and the majority of candidates
backed by Adelson-funded groups lost, too. But Adelson, who oozes chutzpah
as only a gambling tycoon worth $26.5 billion
could, is undeterred. Politics, he told
the Wall Street Journal
in his first post-election interview, is like poker: "I don't cry when I lose. There's always a new hand coming up." He said he could double his 2012 giving in future elections. "I'll spend that much and more," he said. "Let's cut any ambiguity."