Sheldon Adelson didn't spend the $100 million he promised he would to beat President Barack Obama this cycle. He didn't spend the $54 million he reported to the Federal Election Commission.
The casino billionaire spent around $150 million this election, according to Peter Stone of The Huffington Post.
If true, Adelson spent three times as much as the paperwork says he did and more than all of Mitt Romney's primary opponents combined.
How did he manage to spend $150 million and only report $54 million?
By giving to political nonprofits, which don't have to report their donors like super PACs and other political groups do. Huffington Post reports that Adelson gave between $30 and $40 million to Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-founded political nonprofit, and at least $15 million to organizations linked to the Koch brothers, such as their nonprofit Americans for Prosperity. He also gave millions to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, another political heavy hitter that doesn't disclose his donors, Huffpo says.
Altogether Adelson spent twice as much secretly as he did publicly through big donations to the super PACs of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, among others.
That secretive giving contradicts what Adelson has said publicly in regards to his giving philosophy. When asked if his political influence was fair, Adelson told Forbes he was unashamed of his views.
"I'm against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections," he shrugs. "But as long as it's doable I'm going to do it. Because I know that guys like 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 ten different corporations to hide my name. I'm proud of what I do and I'm not looking to escape recognition."
What contributions the world's 14th-richest man did make transparently were mostly unsuccessful. Of the $54 million he and his wife officially gave, about $42 million of it was earmarked for specific candidates — not groups that entered several races. Only one of the nine races he targeted with cash came out the way he wanted.
His most expensive losing bets included $15 million spent on Gingrich's losing campaign, $20 million on Romney's, and several million-dollar donations backing losing Republican congressional candidates, including defeated incumbent Rep. Allen West of Florida.
Adelson's less-than-perfect return on investment has not deterred political suitors, however. Since the 2012 election ended, three potential Republican 2016 presidential candidates have stopped by his Venetian casino in Las Vegas. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich all paid Adelson a visit while in town for a Republican Governors Association meeting, Politico reports. Though notoriously hard to get a hold of, Adelson seems undeterred by his fruitless spending spree.
While fielding questions from a Norweigan newspaper, Adelson referred to his political contributions as merely "paying bills." The comparison makes sense. With a net worth of approximately $20.5 billion, the $150 Adelson spent during the 2012 elections represents less than 1 percent of his total wealth. In fact, Adelson could have funded the presidential campaigns of both Obama and Romney, who collectively spent more than $2 billion, and barely made a dent in his wealth.
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Seth Cline is a reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.