Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has made headlines for the $31 million in contributions he and his wife have made to conservative super PACs so far this campaign, but he's no longer the only high-profile Las Vegas figure writing big checks to benefit Republican candidates.
As Politico's Ken Vogel and Steve Freiss report, Wynn Resorts chairman Steve Wynn has emerged as one of the leading benefactors behind Crossroads GPS, a political group founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove that has already spent tens of millions of dollars against President Barack Obama's re-election.
Unlike its sister group, American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS was organized as a 501-C4 advocacy group and doesn't have to disclose its donors. But sources tell Politico Wynn has contributed millions to the effort and was the group's single biggest donor as of earlier this year—a relationship based in part on his close friendship with Rove:
Wynn, the flamboyant Las Vegas billionaire who claims to have voted for President Barack Obama in 2008, was the perfect get for Rove. Wynn was loaded, had soured on Obama and was just the kind of wealthy businessman who could help underwrite a plan hatched by Rove and other influential conservatives to spend close to $1 billion total to win the White House, Senate and House in 2012. Wynn, a registered Democrat until recently, was reluctant to attach his name to any high-dollar gambles on the GOP, worried that Obama's allies would make him a bogeyman. So Rove—who helped develop Crossroads GPS in 2010, one of a growing roster of non-profit groups that can now accept unlimited contributions for hard-hitting political ads—was a perfect get for Wynn, too. Rove knows all the players—and the groups he works with are skilled at minimizing media attention to their financial whales.
The courting, which took place in direct conversations and through friends and allies of both men, produced big results. Wynn has kicked in millions to Crossroads GPS, according to multiple sources.
And Rove, who attended Wynn's gala wedding last year in Vegas, recently got something of a personal bonus out of the relationship. After Wynn attended the veteran operative's wedding last month in Austin—an intimate and until-now unreported affair also attended by former President George W. Bush—Rove and his new wife Karen Johnson flew to Naples, Italy, aboard Wynn's Boeing 737—a nearly 11-hour, 6,000-mile trip that could cost tens of thousands of dollars from a charter jet carrier. Wynn joined Rove in Italy.
Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio told Politico "Crossroads does not comment on anonymous speculation concerning who might or might not give to the group," and would not comment on Rove's relationship with Wynn. A Wynn spokesman also declined to comment on their relationship.