A week after President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement, billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson rewarded five Republican candidates with campaign donations. They all had one thing in common: they had adamantly opposed the Obama-era agreement.
Three of them are also among the most vulnerable GOP candidates running in the midterm congressional elections.
Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, California Rep. Mimi Walters, Utah Rep. Mia Love and Republican candidate for Congress in Nevada’s 4th District Cresent Hardy all received campaign contributions from Adelson in May, according to Federal Election Commission records.
The campaigns of Heller, Hardy and Love each received $5,400 while Comstock and Walters picked up $2,700 from Adelson, records show. Heller, Hardy and Comstock have received contributions from Adelson in the past while Love and Walters are first-time beneficiaries.
In a statement to CNBC, Heller's campaign said the senator has consistently taken a stand against the Iran deal.
“Dean Heller’s positions on Israel and the Iran Deal have been longstanding and consistent,” a campaign spokesman said. “He has said from day one that the Iran Deal was not good for America or our allies.”
A spokesman for the Walters campaign said Walters' support of Israel was a bigger attraction to Adelson than her position on Iran.
“We are happy to receive a contribution from Sheldon Adelson but it doesn’t have to do with her position on the Iran deal," the spokesman said. "She has visited Israel many times and she’s big supporter of Israel." He did add that "she’s been very clear about her position against the Iran deal."
Representatives for Adelson and the three other campaigns did not return requests for comment.
The candidates Adelson chose to support in May are, for the most part, fighting to survive in competitive races that have yet to bend in their favor.
Heller is considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress as he goes up against Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates the race as a tossup.
Comstock is fighting to survive in Virginia’s 10th District while she takes on Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Wexton.
Meanwhile, Hardy is trying to return to the House after falling to the current Democrat incumbent Ruben Kihuen in 2016. Kihuen, who was accused of sexual harassment, is not seeking re-election. Hardy’s campaign was hit with its own scandal when Benjamin Sparks, one of its strategists, was fired in March after police responded to a domestic abuse dispute between Sparks and his then fiance
Crystal Ball ranks Nevada’s 4th District as leaning Democrat and Hardy needs all the help he can get in the fundraising game. He has raised just $318,533 and has only $276,801 on hand, records show. His opponent, Steven Horsford, has raised $360,194 and has $66,329 on hand.
Love and Walters are running in districts that lean Republican.
The four House candidates will also likely benefit from Adelson’s recent agreement to give $30 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC dedicated to maintaining the Republican majority within the House of Representatives.
The organization Adelson leads and where he directs his money speaks volumes about his stance against the Iran deal, despite a dearth of public comment from the billionaire.
Adelson, a staunch defender of Israel, is a member of the board of directors of the influential lobbying group the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC). The group has been adamantly opposed to the Obama-era deal, arguing it’s a danger to Israel.
Last month, the organization thanked Trump in a statement for withdrawing from the agreement and said it believes the administration’s decision will lead to getting a “deal that creates the necessary pressure on Iran.”
The group also cheered the decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Beyond his support for vulnerable Republicans, Adelson has been a key ally for Trump and his administration.
During the 2016 presidential election, Adelson was one of Trump’s largest campaign financiers, contributing millions to Future45, an independent super PAC dedicated to electing Trump and defeating his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
He was also a top donor to Trump’s inaugural fund, giving up $5 million, and since the election Adelson has become a confidant of the Trump White House.