Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
A ProPublica investigative report by Matt Isaacs, Lowell Bergman and Stephen Engelberg, Inside the Investigation of Leading GOP Money Man Sheldon Adelson that was co-published with PBS’ “Frontline”, should be Exhibit "A" in the case to overturn Citizens United v. FEC (excerpts):
The Macau bet paid off, propelling Adelson into the ranks of the mega-rich and underwriting his role as the largest Republican donor in the 2012 campaign, providing tens of millions of dollars to Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and other GOP causes.
Now, some of the methods Adelson used in Macau to save his company and help build a personal fortune estimated at $25 billion have come under expanding scrutiny by federal and Nevada investigators, according to people familiar with both inquiries.
Internal email and company documents, disclosed here for the first time, show that Adelson instructed a top executive to pay about $700,000 in legal fees to Leonel Alves, a Macau legislator whose firm was serving as an outside counsel to Las Vegas Sands.
The company's general counsel and an outside law firm warned that the arrangement could violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It is unknown whether Adelson was aware of these warnings. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act bars American companies from paying foreign officials to "affect or influence any act or decision" for business gain.
Federal investigators are looking at whether the payments violate the statute because of Alves' government and political roles in Macau, people familiar with the inquiry said. Investigators were also said to be separately examining whether the company made any other payments to officials. An email by Alves to a senior company official, disclosed by the Wall Street Journal, quotes him as saying "someone high ranking in Beijing" had offered to resolve two vexing issues — a lawsuit by a Taiwanese businessman and Las Vegas Sands' request for permission to sell luxury apartments in Macau. Another email from Alves said the problems could be solved for a payment of $300 million. There is no evidence the offer was accepted. Both issues remain unresolved.
* * *
Soon after Alves said he would apply what he termed "pressure" on local planning officials, the company prevailed on a key request, gaining permission to sell off billions of dollars of its real estate holdings in Macau.
Las Vegas Sands denies any wrongdoing. But it has told investors that it is under criminal investigation for possible violations of the U.S. anti-bribery law. Adelson declined to respond to detailed questions, including whether he was aware of the concerns about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when he directed payment of the bill from Alves' law firm.
* * *
Alves promoted himself to Adelson as someone "uniquely situated both as counsel and legislator to 'help' us in Macau," according to an email written by a Las Vegas Sands executive.
The then-general counsel of Las Vegas Sands warned that large portions of the invoices submitted by Alves in 2009 were triple what had been initially agreed and far more than could be justified by the legal work performed.
"I understand that what they are seeking is approx $700k," the general counsel wrote to the company's Macau executives in an email in late 2009. "If correct, that will require a lot of explaining given what our other firms are charging and given the FCPA," the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Adelson, described by Forbes Magazine as the largest foreign investor in China, ultimately ordered executives to pay Alves the full amount he had requested, according to an email that quotes his instructions.
* * *
Several Las Vegas Sands executives resigned or were fired after expressing concerns about Alves' billings. These include Las Vegas Sands' general counsel and two top executives at Sands China, its Macau subsidiary.
* * *
The internal Las Vegas Sands documents were obtained by reporters working for the University of California's Investigative Reporting Program as part of an ongoing collaboration with ProPublica and PBS Frontline.
The documents include dozens of emails, billing invoices, memos and reports that circulated among top executives of Las Vegas Sands and its attorneys. The documents were provided by people who had authorized access to them. They offer important glimpses of the company's dealings in Macau and China, but are not a complete archive.
* * *
The documents shed new light on an issue separate from Alves' work: the company's difficulties in avoiding contact with Chinese organized crime figures as it built its casino business in Macau.
Nevada law bars licensed casino operators from associating with members of organized crime. State investigators are now assessing whether Las Vegas Sands complied with that rule in its Macau operations, people familiar with the inquiry said.
* * *
Nevada officials are now poring over records of transactions between junkets, Las Vegas Sands and other casinos licensed by the state, people familiar with the inquiry say. Among the junket companies under scrutiny is a concern that records show was financed by Cheung Chi Tai, a Hong Kong businessman.
Cheung was named in a 1992 U.S. Senate report as a leader of a Chinese organized crime gang, or triad. A casino in Macau owned by Las Vegas Sands granted tens of millions of dollars in credit to a junket backed by Cheung, documents show. Cheung did not respond to requests for comment.
Another document says that a Las Vegas Sands subsidiary did business with Charles Heung, a well-known Hong Kong film producer who was identified as an office holder in the Sun Yee On triad in the same 1992 Senate report. Heung, who has repeatedly denied any involvement in organized crime, did not return phone calls.
Allegations about the company's dealings with Alves as well as its purported ties to organized crime are prominently mentioned in a 2010 lawsuit filed by Steven Jacobs, former CEO of Sands China.
In the suit, Jacobs contends he was fired after multiple disputes with Adelson, which included the continued employment of Alves and the company's dealings with junkets.
Las Vegas Sands declined to respond to detailed questions about the emails, billing invoices or purported relationships with organized crime figures including Cheung and Heung. Nor would it comment on the federal or Nevada investigations.
* * *
At least one prominent Republican has expressed concern about the source of Adelson's campaign contributions. "Much of Mr. Adelson's casino profits that go to him come from his casino in Macau," Sen. John McCain noted in an interview last month with the PBS "NewsHour."
"Maybe in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American political campaign," said McCain, an Arizona Republican.
The questions raised by McCain and others have not prevented Adelson, the self-made son of a Boston cabdriver, from emerging as a powerful political figure in both Israel and the United States. A longtime backer of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel, Adelson created a free daily newspaper, now Israel's largest, that supports the policies of Netanyahu's Likud Party.
His family's $25 million in contributions kept Newt Gingrich in the presidential race. He has been widely reported as donating $10 million to a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney. A "well-placed source" recently told Forbes Magazine that Adelson's willingness to financially support Romney was "limitless." A filing with the Federal Election Commission last night shows that Adelson and his wife, Miriam, gave $5 million to the "YG Action Fund,'' a super PAC linked to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican.
There is much more detail in Inside the Investigation of Leading GOP Money Man Sheldon Adelson.
The Rachel Maddow Show on Monday night interviewed Stephen Engelberg, the managing editor of ProPublica, about his investigative report in this segment (begins around 1:20 mark).
It is still illegal for a foreign national to make a contribution to a candidate in a federal, state or local election. And the term "foreign national" includes foreign corporations. A "foreign national" is a foreign government, political party, corporation, association or partnership, or a person with foreign citizenship who does not have a green card (permission from the U.S. government to reside here permanently).
The ban is quite broad. The law not only forbids foreign nationals from making contributions, but also prohibits them from spending money in connection with an election, either directly or indirectly. It’s also illegal for anyone to receive such a contribution, to solicit one or to help a foreign national violate the prohibition.
The general ban dates back to 1966 amendments to the Foreign Agents’ Registration Act, according to the Federal Election Commission; the intent was to prevent other countries from influencing U.S. elections. It was incorporated into the Federal Election Campaign Act in 1974 amendments.
"The mere commingling of foreign and U.S. funds might not be illegal under FEC regulations. . . a 1992 advisory opinion issued by the FEC (AO 1992-16), allowing the wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of a Japanese company to make corporate donations to state and local candidates in Hawaii, provided that the U.S. firm could show that it had enough funds from its domestic operations to cover the gifts."
Your move, Senator McCain.