Wealthy couple finance super PAC for Gingrich

A political action committee backing Newt Gingrich made an enormous advertising buy Wednesday in Florida -- $6 million. It's one of those cases of the unlimited money that can now be donated to a so-called super PAC.

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson are among the richest couples in the world with a fortune Forbes estimated at $23 billion, and they're bankrolling the super PAC that supports Gingrich.

Adelson owns a global network of hotels and casinos, his wife is an Israeli-born physician. Their combined gift of $10 million to the super PAC supporting Gingrich is keeping his anti-Romney message on TV in Florida.

Adelson made billions on his risky decision to implode the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas and replace it with the state-of-the-art Venetian Casino and Convention Center. He has used his fortune to benefit several hospitals, charities and politicians in Israel. The Adelsons gave a record $25 million to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Center in Jerusalem, and are long-time supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In 1995, friends say Adelson and then-House Speaker Gingrich first bonded over their shared view of Israel. Adelson was asking Congress to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem - a move considered highly inflammatory by Palestinians, who also claim the holy city as their capital, and Arabs worldwide. Three presidents have called the move harmful for peace prospects, but it's the first thing Gingrich says he'd do as president.

"There will be an executive order about two hours after the inaugural address. We will send the Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as of that day," he once said.

Gingrich has also played down the Palestinian claim to statehood by dismissing their legitimacy as a people.

"We've had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs," he said on the Jewish Channel.

A close friend of Adelson's told CBS News that the billionaire "loved" Gingrich's remark.

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But is his $10 million gift a form of payment for Gingrich's world view? Adelson declined CBS News' request for an interview. But in a statement, he described his motivation as loyalty, saying he and his wife "hold our friendship with (Gingrich) very dear and are doing what we can as private citizens to support his candidacy."

George Harris, a former employee of Adelson's who is now a Gingrich finance director, said Adelson donates his money with no strings attached.

"I can promise you something: Mr. Adelson doesn't ask anybody for anything," he said. "I don't believe there's any quid pro quo for this money at all."

But critics and public interest groups argue that $10 million buys you influence, period. The Adelsons' gift, for example, has already purchased seven times more ad time in Florida than the entire Gingrich campaign. This is the leading example of how these unrestricted super PACs are changing the race for the White House.

  • Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.

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