Feb 23, 2018

Report: Sheldon Adelson willing to fund Jerusalem embassy

Sheldon Adelson sits behind then-vice presidential candidate Mike Pence at the first presidential debate in 2016. Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Billionaire casino magnate and prominent GOP donor Sheldon Adelson has offered to pay for some portion of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, which could stretch into the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to an AP report. His offer comes as the State Department is reportedly researching the legal roadblocks surrounding funding the project via private donations.

Why it matters: The move would be highly irregular for an American diplomatic complex and raise significant questions surrounding conflicts of interest, especially given Adelson's extensive contributions in support of right-wing Israeli politics.

I don’t know how well that would work. Would we be beholden to putting their name on the building? I’ve never heard of that.
— Kathy Bethany, the former cost management director for the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations, to the AP

Why the decision could be risky:

  • The legality: While the State Department can accept gifts from private citizens, even for real estate, it has to evaluate them on an individual basis to make sure that they “would not give the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
  • Adelson's other causes: He's a Republican megadonor, granting $5 million to President Trump's inaugural committee. He also finances a free daily newspaper in Israel — the largest in the country by circulation — that supports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • The peace process: Beyond the implications of actually constructing and moving the embassy to Jerusalem, Palestinians and other Arab actors in the region would likely double down on their distaste if the cash from the project came from Adelson or other Netanyahu-backing GOP donors.

What's next: Vice President Mike Pence promised last month that the embassy would be moved to Jerusalem by 2019, but that could happen even sooner with a quick retrofit of the current consular offices in Jerusalem — perhaps even by Israel's Independence Day in April — even though most U.S. diplomatic staff in Israel would remain in Tel Aviv until a more permanent and secure complex could be constructed.

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Situational awareness

Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Mike Bloomberg offers to release women from 3 NDAs
  2. Wells Fargo to pay $3 billion to settle consumer abuse charges
  3. Bloomberg campaign says Tennessee vandalism "echoes language" from Bernie supporters
  4. Scoop: New White House personnel chief tells Cabinet liaisons to target Never Trumpers
  5. Nearly half of Republicans support pardoning Roger Stone

Wells Fargo agrees to pay $3 billion to settle consumer abuse charges

Clients use an ATM at a Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo: Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Wells Fargo agreed to a pay a combined $3 billion to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday for opening millions of fake customer accounts between 2002 and 2016, the SEC said in a press release.

The big picture: The fine "is among the largest corporate penalties reached during the Trump administration," the Washington Post reports.

Bloomberg offers to release women from 3 nondisclosure agreements

Mike Bloomberg. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Mike Bloomberg said Friday his company will release women identified to have signed three nondisclosure agreements so they can publicly discuss their allegations against him if they wish.

Why it matters, via Axios' Margaret Talev: Bloomberg’s shift in policy toward NDAs comes as he tries to stanch his loss of female support after the Las Vegas debate. It is an effort to separate the total number of harassment and culture complaints at the large company from those directed at him personally. That could reframe the criticism against him, but also protect the company from legal fallout if all past NDAs were placed in jeopardy.