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EDITORIAL: How Adelson might change RJ editorial page


Newspaper owners aren't supposed to interfere with news content. But it's perfectly appropriate for them to seize full control of the editorial page and steer the philosophy of their editorial board.

Sheldon Adelson, billionaire casino magnate and Republican Party megadonor, is the new owner of Nevada's largest newspaper. The Las Vegas Review-Journal's editorial page can become his family's personal soap box, if that's what they want.

Should the Adelsons take the reins of this space, what views might they advocate, and how might those opinions differ from positions the Review-Journal editorial page has championed?

The 2016 presidential race: The Review-Journal has a libertarian/conservative tilt that aligns with Republicans far more often than Democrats. It has endorsed Republicans for president going back many, many election cycles. The odds that it would endorse Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic Party nomination, were exceptionally long even before Mr. Adelson's family purchased the Review-Journal on Dec. 10. The Adelsons will be all in for the Republican nominee. The newspaper's editorial board began the process of interviewing Republican presidential candidates before the sale, with the intention of issuing an endorsement for Nevada's Feb. 23 GOP caucus. The decision on that endorsement now could belong to the Adelsons.

Potential change in position: little to none.

Internet gaming: Mr. Adelson strongly opposes all forms of Internet gaming, including web-based poker, and has put his wealth behind campaigns to abolish it. He supports federal legislation that wipes out the 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act that still stands today, which allows intrastate Internet wagering. Mr. Adelson's position counters the Review-Journal's. The newspaper supports the Nevada law that allows Internet poker within the state's borders, and the Review-Journal has called for federal legislation that creates a regulated interstate Internet poker industry.

Potential change in position: Complete reversal.

Drug policy: The Review-Journal was one of the first editorial boards in the country to condemn the failed federal war on drugs and advocate decriminalization of narcotics, starting with marijuana. The newspaper endorsed the state constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana and backs the approval of a 2016 Nevada ballot question to allow legal recreational marijuana. Mr. Adelson, who lost a son to a drug overdose, opposes the legalization of marijuana for any use. Last year, he and his wife, Miriam, a physician and expert in drug addiction, provided the vast majority of funding for the campaign to defeat a ballot question that would have legalized medical marijuana in Florida. Their campaign prevailed.

Potential change in position: Complete reversal.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority: Mr. Adelson considers the convention authority, which is funded by room taxes and operates the Las Vegas Convention Center, a publicly subsidized competitor to his company's Sands Expo and Convention Center. His company opposes the authority's $2.3 billion convention center expansion plan. The Review-Journal supports it.

Potential change in position: Complete reversal.

Israel: The Adelsons are without peer as Israel advocates. They're huge supporters of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country's right to defend itself. The Adelsons have backed efforts to counter the so-called BDS movement, which has spread on college campuses and seeks to increase boycotts of Israel, divest of investments and impose sanctions on the country. The Review-Journal editorial page is a strong supporter of Israel, as well, and has taken positions consistent with Mr. Adelson's.

Potential change in position: None.

U.S. defense spending: Mr. Adelson is a defense hawk, while the Review-Journal has advocated restrained spending on what already is the world's largest and most expensive military force.

Potential change in position: A noticeable shift.

Social issues: Mr. Adelson is a self-described social liberal who believes socially conservative positions have cost Republicans elections. The Review-Journal editorial board agrees with that sentiment and supports socially liberal positions. The newspaper opposed the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and supports marriage equality.

Potential change in position: None.

Health care: Mr. Adelson favors a nationalized health care system, like Israel's, that guarantees care from cradle to grave. The Review-Journal strongly opposes a nationalized health care system, and as part of that position has advocated complete privatization of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Potential change in position: Complete reversal.

The Adelson family hasn't said much about its plans for the Review-Journal beyond confirming their purchase and promising a "journalism product that is second-to-none." In a Friday interview with Farah Master of Reuters, Mr. Adelson said, "The Review-Journal is already on my side of the political spectrum. ... We may take some of the positive characteristics of our Israeli newspaper and add them to there but that's all just suggestions." Mr. Adelson isn't shy about using his free Tel Aviv newspaper, Israel Hayom, to support Mr. Netanyahu and their shared positions.

Whether any of this newspaper's editorial page positions change will go a long way toward further explaining why Mr. Adelson purchased the Review-Journal.

 

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