GOP Plea to Sheldon Adelson Mischaracterized Donor Pledges

Companies say they never pledges the funds cited by convention staff

Sheldon Adelson, shown on Dec. 18. PHOTO: LAM YIK FEI/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Jul 15, 2016 4:42 pm ET

Organizers of the Republican convention earlier this week asked billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson to cover a $6 million gap in funding for the event, saying several companies had reneged on pledges to donate over concerns about Donald Trump.

Yet interviews with officials from several of the companies cited in the organizers’ letter said those firms had neither made nor backed out of promises to donate to the committee.

On Friday, the host committee’s CEO confirmed that several of the pledges listed in the letter were “actually expectations based on pledges made to previous conventions,” though a “handful” represented withdrawn pledges.

The letter, first reported by Politico on Thursday, said billionaire industrialist David Koch had backed out of a $1 million commitment, but a spokesman for Mr. Koch said he never made such a pledge.

Mr. Koch did give $1 million to the Tampa Bay host committee in 2012.


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The letter also listed FedEx as having pledged $500,000, but a spokeswoman said the company never committed or reneged on that amount. She said the company is participating in both parties’ conventions, but declined to provide an amount. In 2012, FedEx donated $250,000 to the Tampa Bay fund.
Also listed as having pledged funds were BP PLC and Visa Inc., whose spokesmen said no commitments had been made to donate this year. BP donated $100,000 to the 2008 host committee in St. Paul, Minn., and Visa donated $250,000 to that committee. Coca-Cola Co., listed as pledging $1 million, gave $75,000 to each party’s host committee last year, and a spokesman said no such pledge had been made.
David Gilbert, the host committee CEO, confirmed in a statement that the committee is $6 million short of its final goal of $64 million. She said that after the committee had approached Mr. Adelson about donating, his staff requested more information about its fundraising “at a very late hour and indicated a need for an immediate response.”
“The Host Committee staff provided the information in a private letter addressed to Mr. Adelson and his wife. Unfortunately, this letter was not reviewed nor authorized by the Host Committee Chairpersons, and it mischaracterized certain donations from individuals and corporations,” Mr. Gilbert said.
Mr. Gilbert added that the host committee has apologized to Mr. Adelson’s staff for the errors in its letter.
Mr. Adelson’s spokesman did not respond to a question about whether he was considering making the donation.
Jeff Larson, the chief executive of the convention, said getting the final donations is always difficult.
“Those kinds of requests go out from people, from host committees quite often,” he said of the letter to Mr. Adelson, which he called “a request for some support from the convention that is normal in the course of business.”
Several companies have reduced their donations this year, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Coca-Cola Co., which in 2012 gave $666,200 to the GOP convention. Other companies that were previously major donors have decided not to give at all this year, including Motorola Solutions Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Co.
“A lot of companies are not going… because they are worried about Trump or what he would say,” David Beightol, a partner at the government affairs firm Flywheel Government Solutions, told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month. Those decisions have prompted many lobbyists to also skip the convention, which they generally attend to network with clients.
In 2012, Mr. Adelson gave $5 million to the GOP convention host committee. It’s unclear if he has donated this year. The host committee won’t officially disclose its donors until later this year. The billionaire has pledged to spend up to $100 million on Mr. Trump’s behalf this year, but it’s unclear if he has to date spent any money on the New York businessman’s behalf.