Sheldon Adelson's libel suit against one Dem group 'very unlikely to succeed,' even after the DCCC caved
9:50 am Aug. 9, 2012
On Wednesday afternoon, Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson filed a $60 million libel suit against the National Jewish Democratic Council for repeating reported claims that his casino business condoned prostitution at its operations in Macao.
The filing was first reported by the New York Times.
The suit ensures that Adelson, one of the chief benefactors of Mitt Romney, and the allegations, will churn through the news cycle a few more times this election season, which would seem to be bad news for Romney, who would surely prefer that Adelson's massive donations come quietly, and without the taint of an alleged scandal.
Moreover, the suit is likely to fail if the Jewish Democratic group fights it, since the allegations first appeared in public court filings, in a lawsuit against Adelson by a former executive at his casino company. The allegations were then reported by the Associated Press.
"I think the suit is very unlikely to succeed," said David Anderson, a libel-law expert professor at the University of Texas Law School. "Adelson is clearly a public figure, so he would have to show that the Council published this knowing that it was false."
According to Anderson, the council was not legally obligated to investigate the veracity of the allegations against Adelson. "Failure to investigate will not defeat the constitutional privilege," he said.
Anderson said there was a separate but related defense under state law, which protects reporting on public court cases, where the allegations first appeared.
The council issued a statement saying it "will not be bullied," and plans to fight the case in court.
Adelson's threats of a suit achieved at least a partial result: Last week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued a public apology for promoting the same prostitution allegations, in the face of Adelson's threats of legal action.
"A huge number of libel suits are really political maneuvers, and I think this is, on both sides," said Anderson. "Obviously the council's allegation was an attempt to discredit Adelson and possibly to intimidate him from spending more money on behalf of Romney. On the other hand, Adelson is undoubtedly attempting to dissuade other people from repeating this allegation.
"So his aims are probably served if filing this lawsuit persuades other media, other political organizations, not to repeat this allegation."