Senate Approves Sheldon Adelson’s Anti-BDS Bill

March 21, 2018


Sheldon Adelson

A bill that punishes local governments and businesses that boycott Israel was approved Wednesday by the state Senate and sent to GOP Gov. Scott Walker.

The measure, Assembly Bill 553, prohibits state and local governments from adopting rules to boycott doing business with Israel. It also requires contracts of $100,000 or more between state and local governments and businesses for goods and services to prohibit the business from being involved in the so-called Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The movement, which has surfaced in recent years on some college campuses, is designed to pressure Israel to stop oppressing the Palestinian people.

The bill is in line with anti-BDS efforts supported and bankrolled in recent years by Las Vegas Sands casino owner Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire benefactor for conservative and GOP candidates in federal and state races across the country, including Walker.

Adelson and his wife, Miriam, directly contributed $270,000 to Walker’s 2012 recall and 2014 reelection campaigns. Adelson also contributed another $650,000 in 2014 to the state Republican Party, which turned around days later and contributed $600,000 to Walker’s campaign.

In addition to the bill, Walker also signed an executive order last fall that prohibits the state from doing business with anyone who participates in a boycott against Israel. Walker’s Executive Order 261 calls the boycott “discriminatory” and says it “serves to inflame conflict.”

The Wisconsin bill had only a single backer on record, the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, and was opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, whose executive director testified against the bill at a January public hearing.