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As Gingrich prepares exit, what will his billionaire benefactor do next?

By Kevin Bohn, CNN Senior Producer
updated 11:16 AM EDT, Fri April 27, 2012
Along with his wife, billionaire Sheldon Adelson gave $20 million to a super PAC that supported Newt Gingrich.
Along with his wife, billionaire Sheldon Adelson gave $20 million to a super PAC that supported Newt Gingrich.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, gave big to pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC
  • With Gingrich planning to bow out, which Republicans will be aided by the billionaire?
  • Financial support from Adelson is something Mitt Romney and his allies would like to see
  • In past, Adelson has criticized Romney for not being a bold decision-maker

Washington (CNN) -- For months now, his name has gone hand-in-hand with that of Newt Gingrich.

But as the former House speaker prepares to leave the Republican nomination race next week, Sheldon Adelson has to decide what political causes -- and which candidates -- to support.

Adelson's not wasting time. The Nevada billionaire and mogul and his wife, Miriam, are two of the hosts for a fundraiser on Friday for House Speaker John Boehner's re-election campaign at Adelson's casino, The Venetian, along with fellow magnate Steve Wynn and the American Gaming Association.

The Adelsons have made a big political splash, giving $20 million to the super PAC Winning Our Future that was largely responsible for keeping Gingrich's candidacy alive in the past few months. That includes a $5 million contribution late last month.

I'm against very wealthy people attempting to influence elections. But as long as it's doable, I'm going to do it.
Sheldon Adelson

Adelson dropped some hints Thursday evening telling Jon Ralston of the Las Vegas Sun he wanted to become less visible in the political world and that references to him being a mogul when his donations were reported were "not helpful to that person."

When asked if he was going to give to the Republican super PAC American Crossroads or its nonprofit affiliate Crossroads GPS, he initially would not answer. Later, he said to Ralston "I'm going to give one more small donation -- you might not think it's that small -- to a super PAC and then if I give it will be to a C4," referring to 501(c)(4) non-profit groups, such as Crossroads GPS, which are not required to disclose their donors.

Adelson refused to say if his reference to one "small" donation to a super PAC was referring to the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future group. "I'm not going to tell you...you'll find out when it's reported."

Adelson previously told some supporters of Mitt Romney he would back his candidacy if he became the Republican nominee, according to sources familiar with the matter. What is not clear is how much he and his wife will end up donating or when. Associates have said a major motivation for him is preventing the re-election of President Barack Obama. He thinks Republicans would be stronger proponents for Israel's safety, which friends have said trumps all other concerns for him.

"When the presidential campaign started he said his goal was to defeat Barack Obama, and he was going to do whatever he could to do that," one friend told CNN.

The future financial support from Adelson is something Romney and his allies would like to see and have sought. The two men met right before the February 4 Nevada caucuses and have spoken on the phone many times.

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About a dozen donors to the super PAC Restore Our Future met with Adelson in Las Vegas in late March while they were in town for the Republican Jewish Coalition to convince him to "come on board." He indicated to them, according to one of the participants, "it is just a matter of time."

While he was complimentary of Romney in that session, according to one source familiar with the matter, he also has publicly criticized him as not being a bold decision-maker.

"He's not the bold decision-maker like Newt Gingrich is. He doesn't want to -- every time I talk to him, he says, 'Well, let me think about it,' " he told JewishJournal.com at the end of March.

Adelson has been a prolific donor to Republican causes in past years. Earlier this year, he and his wife each donated $2.5 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a group dedicated to keeping the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

Adelson was a bundler for John McCain's 2008 presidential candidacy, helping to bring in $219,000 for that campaign. He and his wife contributed almost $215,000 to the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, aimed at electing GOP candidates.

Nevada Republicans also expect Adelson to be involved in some fashion to support Republican Sen. Dean Heller's re-election effort against Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, according to one Nevada Republican source, and he and his wife last year maxed out their allowed donations to Heller and U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nevada.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks the role of money in politics, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson rank as the top individuals funding outside spending groups this election cycle.

In February, when Gingrich looked to have a serious chance at getting the Republican nomination, he told Forbes magazine he might give as much as $100 million to support the former House speaker. What is unclear is whether he will follow through with that amount and where it may go now that Gingrich will no longer be in the race.

In that interview, he defended his donations and said he had nothing for which to apologize.

"I'm against very wealthy people attempting to influence elections," he said. "But as long as it's doable, I'm going to do it. Because I know that guys like (George) Soros have been doing it for years, if not decades. And they stay below the radar by creating a network of corporations to funnel their money. I have my own philosophy, and I'm not ashamed of it. I gave the money because there is no other legal way to do it. I don't want to go through 10 different corporations to hide my name. I'm proud of what I do, and I'm not looking to escape recognition."

The Adelsons came under some criticism from Republicans for their support of the super PAC backing Gingrich, especially when it was airing bitter ads in January questioning Romney's record at Bain Capital and also when it became clear that Gingrich's candidacy stalled.

Adelson reacted to the critics in the Forbes interview: "Those people are either jealous or professional critics." He added: "They like to trash other people. It's unfair that I've been treated unfair -- but it doesn't stop me."

Adelson was longtime friends with Gingrich from the time he served as House speaker, and the two shared common beliefs regarding Israel and the need to protect it.

"I am in favor of Newt Gingrich because I like people who make decisions. He is a decision-maker," he told the Jewish Journal publication.

He also was motivated because he did not want Rick Santorum to become the nominee.

"Rick Santorum ... is too social," he also said. "This man has no history creating anything or taking risks." He said he knew Santorum and liked him, but "I don't want him to run my country."

A spokesman for Adelson did not return calls seeking comment on the plans for future donations.

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