How did Sheldon Adelson get his Macau casino license?

Apparently by successfully lobbying Tom DeLay to block a House bill that might have derailed Beijing’s Olympic bid (on human-rights grounds).

Now maybe that bill was a bad idea. But there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that Mitt Romney’s biggest donor is carrying water for the Chinese tyranny, and that his influence means that Chinese money is flowing in American politics, just as John McCain said.

All of this worries me a lot more that Adelson’s apparent violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, just because corruption in Washington bothers me more than corruption in Macau. As to Adelson’s dealings with the triads, they don’t threaten my future nearly as much as his dealings with the Chinese politboro.

Yes, this is one more reason to overturn Citizens United, which we now know presents a substantial threat to the national security. But it’s also one more question for Mitt Romney to answer, after he tells us why we can’t see his tax returns.

Good news and bad news

In a Southern Republican primary, adultery turned out to be less of a burden for a candidate than Cayman Islands bank accounts. That reflects a clearer moral sense than I would have credited Southern Republicans with.

On the other side of the ledger, a single billionaire donating $5 million to a Super-PAC completely turned the campaign around in a week. $5M is chump change compared to the stakes in the American Presidency. If unlimited amounts of untraceable cash are going to be sloshing around, there’s no way to prevent the Chinese government, or the Iranian government, or the Saudi government, from playing the game. It isn’t hard for government-sized operations to channel the relevant amounts of money to U.S.-based corporations under their effective control.

Sheldon Adelson made most of his billions in Macao, which is Chinese territory; you can believe that Adelson’s political activities are immune from Chinese pressure if you like, but you can’t reasonably doubt that if China needed a tame U.S. billionaire it could easily create one. Campaign finance reform sounds like a boring topic, but fixing it in the wake of Citizens United isn’t just a matter of asserting democratic values over plutocratic ones; it’s a matter of national sovereignty and national security.