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November 26, 2014

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Jon Ralston:

Shaking loose a few odds and ends

Emptying out the ol’ reporter’s notebook with your Friday Flash, including some accounting for gamers in federal politics and Rick Perry’s short, unhappy Nevada campaign life:

• The GOP’s new dynamic Strip duo: Don’t ask me who is Batman and who is Robin because that could end the new, beautiful friendship, but Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn are putting their money where their anti-Democratic Party mouths are. Wynn has become Fox News’ favorite interviewee with his anti-President Barack Obama polemics while Adelson has always been a reliable Republican donor.

The Las Vegas Sands boss showed his dedication at the end of the third quarter by giving the maximum contribution — as did his wife, Miriam — to both the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee. That’s $61,600 from the Adelson family to each committee, according to CQ MoneyLine.

Wynn was not quite as generous, giving the maximum $30,800 to the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. But the donations clearly indicate how adamant the formerly not-so-friendly casino titans are to keeping the House in GOP hands — both men also have given to GOP Rep. Joe Heck, who will be a national Democratic target, the CQ MoneyLine records show.

Both men also have given money to Sen. Dean Heller this year and are intent on defeating Rep. Shelley Berkley. Adelson and Berkley go way back — she used to work for him until an ugly dissolution of that relationship that climaxed with the release of damaging memos she wrote that almost cost her the congressional seat she eventually hung on to win. And Wynn has publicly accused Berkley of telling him that she only supported health care reform because of intimidation by Nancy Pelosi, a conversation that the congresswoman says she recalls differently. (What did Ben Bradlee call that kind of denial?)

This pair has more money to spend on policies than any two individuals in Nevada and if they decide to really jump in with their bankrolls — financing third-party efforts, perhaps — they will have an impact.

One final Wynn-Adelson note: Neither has endorsed for president, but Adelson and his wife gave $2,500 each to Newt Gingrich’s committee in August. That was long before the Gingrich surge, but don’t forget Adelson was a prime funder of the former speaker’s fundraising operation, American Solutions, giving him millions over the years before it closed earlier this year.

Maybe Adelson can persuade Wynn to jump on the Newt bandwagon — if there’s one conversation I would pay a lot to overhear it would be Newt Gingrich and Steve Wynn.

• And then there are the other ones: So are the other gaming industry chiefs, most of them crushed by the economy in ways Adelson and Wynn have not been, feeling GOPphilia? Not entirely.

Even the usually GOP-friendly Fertittas, the family behind Station Casinos, have given money to Berkley. Frank Fertitta III even gave $10,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (Maybe he thinks Harry Reid can get the Culinary off his back?). Yes, the Fertittas — including wives and cousins — also have given heavily to Sen. Dean Heller, but they have donated to both sides, as I reported earlier this month.

The Fertittas also have been active in the GOP presidential race, giving to several candidates. But some will be surprised by their generosity to Jon Huntsman, which I first reported, but now has been shown to be even more generous than I first imagined. Reuters reports that UFC is the second biggest campaign contributor, behind Fertitta Entertainment, to Huntsman’s campaign.

Ultimate Fighting Championship and Jon Huntsman? Now I remember what the word “incongruous” means.

A couple of other notables: MGM Resorts boss Jim Murren and his better half, Heather, gave $2,500 each to Berkley and Heller at the end of the quarter. And Caesars Entertainment Chairman Gary Loveman has given to both this year, too.

Some gamers, unlike Wynn and Adelson don’t like to gamble.

• Rick, we hardly new ye: Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign appears to be dissolving in Nevada, where Gov. Brian Sandoval must be thrilled to see how powerful his endorsement here has proved to be. One of the two Perry staffers who arrived just long enough to unpack his bags is now working for the Heller campaign and the other has departed the state, it seems, sources tell me.

Sandoval seemed unaware of the Perry campaign exodus when I asked him Thursday, but I did obtain this statement from a spokesman for the Texan’s campaign:

“We are not pulling out of NV. We are focusing on the first couple of states right now and will redeploy our full effort after as we go forward.”

I wonder if this would have happened if Nevada were still third in the nation instead of fifth? I am sure if I called Amy Tarkanian, the GOP chairwoman, to ask about that, she would simply reply: “Oops.”

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