The election's most generous donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, were Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. They spent at least $53 million pushing for their desired electoral outcomes, but despite owning a casino empire, the two seem to be poor political gamblers.
The vast majority of the Adelsons' cash, about $42 million of it, went to groups that focused on just one race or candidate, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. Of these nine races the Adelsons' hand-picked for cash bets, they lost eight. So despite spending $42 million, the Adelsons were 1-for-9 on their electoral wagers. Even their only successful bet, the Texas senate race, was hedged—they backed two candidates, The remaining $11 million they donated during the 2012 cycle went toward three super PACs which backed a variety of candidates, none exclusively.
Phone messages and emails left for the Adelsons and their representatives seeking comment were not returned.
In early 2012, the resources of Sheldon Adelson, and other mega donors like him, were expected to change the election.
"There was a lot of worry that there would be enigmatic billionaires that would be able to plop a lot of money into these races and buy the races they wanted," says Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "That didn't happen for the most part ... it was a combination of they had some weaker candidates and also again there was a lot of spending on both sides and sometimes spending gets cancelled out."
Instead of swinging the election, Adelson, who pledged to spend $100 million to defeat President Barack Obama, proved to be mostly inconsequential.
The most notable of Adelson's failed bets were the presidential candidates. The Adelsons gave $15 million to the super PAC supporting former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's presidential run and $20 million to the super PAC supporting Mitt Romney. That's $35 million in failed bets.
The Adelsons also spent heavily opposing Democratic candidates. They gave $1.5 million to a super PAC dedicated to opposing Democratic senate candidate Tim Kaine of Virginia, according to CRP. Kaine won anyway.
Democratic house candidate Patrick Murphy was another target, He ran against incumbent Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican affiliated with the Tea Party movement. The couple gave $1 million to Treasure Coast Jobs Coalition, a super PAC which spent $2 million on direct mail and TV ads attacking Murphy, according to CRP. The race was close, and while West has yet to concede, Murphy has been declared the winner.
Senate candidate Connie Mack was another Florida Republican to lose on Election Day. He did so despite the backing of the Adelsons, who gave $2 million to Freedom PAC, a super PAC which supported Mack, CRP says.
Two New Jersey Republican challengers met similar fates. The Adelsons gave $1 million, according to the CRP, to Patriot Prosperity PAC, a super PAC that supported Joe Kyrillos and Shmuley Boteach's runs for the Senate and House, respectively. Both Kyrillos and Boteach, an orthodox Rabbi, lost decisively.
The Adelsons were only successful in one hand-picked race: the Texas Senate campaign. But the couple backed both candidates in that campaign's main battle, the Republican primary earlier in the year between Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz. Sheldon Adelson gave $250,000 to a group supporting Dewhurst and $250,000 to one supporting Cruz, the eventual winner, CRP figures show.
"I'm sure people like Adelson expected more for their money, and maybe they'll get that in the next midterm without a presidential candidate on the ballot." Kondik says. "But you also have to wonder if they have buyer's remorse."