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The Merchant of Venice

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If you caught the last Republican debate, Donald Trump and others were on stage in the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. That casino stands on the site of the former Sands hotel and is owned by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation whose owner is a major contributor to Republican Party candidates.

Sheldon AdelsonWhile the city of Venice rests famously upon a foundation of loosely spaced wooden piles covered with plates of Istrian limestone,  the Venetian Hotel & Casino was built on a foundation of dollars from the computer industry.

How did the computer industry, an industry known in Vegas by its annual visits to conventions as "non-gamblers," contribute to the making of the Venetian?

Remember COMDEX (1979-1995)?

It was the brainchild of Sheldon Adelson, the rapacious show organizer parlayed his computer trade show into Las Vegas casino ownership and a billionaire's influence on the American Republican party.

As of June 2015, Adelson (with a fortune of $28 billion) was listed by Forbes as the 18th richest person in the world.

Now Forbes has put Adelson in the headlines again. This is the story:

In a market where no one is putting money into a newspaper business suffering from digital disruption, a mystery buyer paid a premium of $140 million for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Normally newspaper owners are transparent but this secretive deal (supposedly part of the acquistion terms was ownership could not be revealed) made the headlines. Newsroom staffers were told that the new owners wanted to remain anonymous, making this this Las Vegas newspaper the largest in America where ownership was undeclared.

The Society of Professional Journalists, as well as others, urged the new owners to come forward, saying in a statement that the group is "very disappointed and concerned by the owners' lack of transparency."

Now Forbes claims the owner is Sheldon Adelson: Patrick Dumont, listed on the website of Las Vegas Sands Corp. as the company's senior VP finance and strategy, put together the deal for his father-in-law, the chairman and CEO of the casino operator.

One day before the Forbes article, at the CNN GOP debate in the Venetian, Adelson told CNN..."I have no personal interest" in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.  The reporter says, "Adelson batted away speculation that he is one of the new owners of the newspaper. He repeatedly indicated that he is not. He seemed to be enjoying the guessing game."

LVRJ

Apparently Adelson has "no personal interest" in the Vegas newspaper the same way Clinton had "no sex" with a White House intern. It's about semantics.

Reporters from the Las Vegas Review-Journal had to dig to find out what no one would tell them (or the public): Who bought the paper they work for?  Ironically, they broke the story and the Adelson family confirmed the truth.

"Definitely one strong strategy for keeping your identity secret is to hire a building full of reporters..." quipped one Twitter commentator.

Another said, "Hats off to reporters who reported this against the wishes of their new owners."

Las Vegas is the source of Adelson's wealth and anything that affects Vegas affects his income.  Anyone that ever exhibited at COMDEX has a story that will indicate how seriously Adelson protects his business interests.

Adelson already owns an Israeli daily newspaper, Israel Hayom. This freesheet is the number-one daily newspaper in Israel in readership.

He has a corporate mission in Vegas which could use media support: he is in a battle to shut down online gambling, which nearly every casino owner in Las Vegas supports. Adelson has poured money into candidates who want to overturn recent state legislation that legalizes iGaming, as well as backing a recent bill introduced in the US House of Representatives.

And as a major benefactor of the Republican Party in USA, he is on a political mission  He once wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled, "I Didn't Leave the Democrats. They Left me."

During the 2012 Republican Party presidential primaries and United States presidential election, Adelson allegedly spent $92 million supporting losing candidates. (Not the mention the other donations of his family.) That makes him the most committed political follower in America.

And Nevada is recognized as one of a number of "swing states" which might determine the next Presidential election.

All these issues raise questions about the editorial independence of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.  The original owners insist they will remain in charge without intervention.

The Adelson familry "coming-out" statement says it slightly differently:  "We believe in this community and want to help make Las Vegas an even greater place to live. We believe deeply that a strong and effective daily newspaper plays a critical role in keeping our state apprised of the important news and issues we face on a daily basis.

"The management team from New Media, which is currently running the R-J, will continue to oversee the operations of the publication. The family wants a journalism product that is second-to-none and will continue to invest in the paper to achieve this goal."

Go Las Vegas Review Journal