Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008 | 2 a.m.
- Ensign finds an ace in Senate election hole: Fear of unions (7-27-2008)
- Culinary stakes out its own political turf (6-13-2008)
- Adelson money is political baggage (6-19-2008)
- Dems reminded: Don’t take Adelson money (4-22-2008)
- Adelson donates to Dems, tests the Culinary (1-28-2008)
Tom Collins, a former Nevada Democratic chairman and current member of the Clark County Commission, has again accepted campaign money from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, his party’s nemesis and a foe of the Culinary Union.
Clark County commissioners last year took tens of thousands of dollars from companies owned by Adelson, a major Republican contributor, prompting the union to issue two letters in recent months imploring Democratic candidates not to do so again.
But Collins, who long had been viewed as ardently pro-union, didn’t heed the directive. Collins took $10,000 in contributions from Adelson’s companies in 2007, and $5,000 this year, according to campaign finance disclosure forms.
The state Democratic Party gently discouraged candidates from taking Adelson’s money, reminding them that doing so would threaten their relationship with a key part of the Democratic coalition, according to a source familiar with the discussions.
For a Democrat to take money from Adelson “would be like Harry Reid taking money from Rush Limbaugh,” Democratic political consultant Jim Ferrence told the Sun last year.
Collins received a $5,000 check from Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. on June 16, three days after D. Taylor, Culinary’s secretary-treasurer, sent a second letter to Nevada Democratic officeholders stressing Adelson’s reputation as a right-wing money machine.
“We are appalled,” Pilar Weiss, the Culinary Union’s political director, said Monday. “We have made it very clear for months now, but it was not just us. Every Democratic group knows about Adelson’s involvement with Freedom’s Watch.”
Freedom’s Watch is a conservative political organization that has tangled with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Adelson is a major benefactor of Freedom’s Watch, though he has been coy publicly about his connection. The New York Times reported that Adelson has provided the organization with about $30 million.
Regarding Taylor’s efforts to limit Adelson’s influence with Democratic candidates statewide, Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese said: “I don’t have any view on that and I don’t think Mr. Adelson does either.”
The Democratic campaign committee has alleged that Freedom’s Watch and the Republican Party are breaking campaign finance law by coordinating their activities. The Democrats have tried to tie Adelson to Republican candidates in two congressional races in the South this year, asserting in an advertisement that he is “one of atheist China’s top American business partners.” China “steals our jobs” and “uses forced labor,” the ad continued.
The Venetian and the Palazzo, both owned by Las Vegas Sands, are the only major nonunion casinos on the Strip.
But Collins doesn’t apologize for accepting the money, noting that Adelson has Democrats on the payroll, including former Nevada Sen. Richard Bryan, who lobbies for Adelson.
When asked whether he was concerned about disappointing the Culinary Union, Collins responded: “I have no issues with anybody.”
It’s unclear what, if any, retribution Collins could face. He’s seeking the party’s nomination today and reelection to the County Commission in November. But most political observers expect him to win with ease.
Weiss declined to comment on the union’s “future plans.”
Democratic Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who is relatively new to the board, recently told the Sun he donated $10,000 in contributions he received from Adelson syndicates last year — before Taylor’s decree was issued — to send children to summer school.
“I think most Democrats have decided not to accept this money,” Weiss said.
Sun reporter J. Patrick Coolican contributed to this story.