EDM's Las Vegas Boom Benefits Republican Cause


by Philip Sherburne
Steve Wynn / Photo by Getty Images
Steve Wynn / Photo by Getty Images

Casino magnate and nightclub impresario Steve Wynn has contributed millions to Karl Rove’s Super PAC

As Las Vegas has fallen under the sway of electronic dance music, casino magnate Steve Wynn has emerged as one of the most gung-ho supporters of EDM at its gaudiest.

Wynn Resorts' four nightclubs — XS, Surrender, Tryst, and Encore Beach Club — have locked down residencies from some of the most recognizable names in dance music: David Guetta, Skrillex, Afrojack, Deadmau5, Tiësto, Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso, Diplo, Dada Life, Nero, Steve Aoki, along with rising stars like Porter Robinson, Nervo, and Audrey Napoleon. A new promotional video, "DJ Takeover: Wynn Las Vegas," portrays Wynn's network of clubs as an anything-goes, indoor-outdoor playground complete with waterfalls, glitter cannons, and go-go dancers on stripper poles — the kind of place where fans might catch Afrojack sliding behind the wheel of a Ferrari, or Tiësto and Steve Aoki bear-hugging in the lobby. Naturally, there's a Paris Hilton cameo, to drive home the message that Wynn nightclubs are a potent cocktail of money, celebrity, and sex.

One thing the video doesn't mention, however, is that Wynn reportedly has become one of the leading donors to Crossroads GPS, a right-wing Super PAC founded by Republican political strategist Karl Rove. According to Politico, Wynn has given millions of dollars to Crossroads — a significant contribution towards Rove's goal of raising $1 billion to spend on putting Mitt Romney in the White House.

The exact sum is impossible to determine: Structured as a 501(c)(4) advocacy group, Crossroads GPS is not required to disclose its donors. Super PACs, with their veil of secrecy, have been criticized by campaign-finance reformers and lampooned by Stephen Colbert, who last year launched his own Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.

The Politico story details the close ties between Wynn — who voted for Obama, but has since turned against an administration he views as anti-business — and the political mastermind Rove. For instance, after Rove's wedding this summer, Wynn flew Rove and his new wife to Naples on the casino mogul's private Boeing 737. The story illustrates, Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel and Steve Friess write, "how one of the biggest changes to politics in a generation — the explosion of unlimited secret money — really works."

The EDM boom has been very good to Wynn. Door prices at his resorts' four nightclubs range from $30 to $50 for male patrons — female guests pay only $20; who says there's a Republican war on women? — while table service can run into the thousands of dollars. According to the Las Vegas nightlife website Jack Colton, bottle-service guests at XS should expect to tip between $500 and $1,000 upon arrival, in order to secure a desirable table — that's on top of the price of the bottles themselves, which begin at $475 apiece.

Dance music and Republican fundraising might seem like strange bedfellows. Dance music's American roots lie largely in black, gay, Latino, and white working-class subcultures; internationally, its spread was fueled by illegal parties, scads of drugs, government grants, underemployment, the introduction of the Euro, and the kinds of border-hopping habits loathed by most American conservatives. (When Ronald Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" he clearly didn't anticipate the Love Parade.) But perhaps that kind of contradiction is less jarring when it comes to Sin City and its power players. After all, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas — except, perhaps, for what gets funneled to Karl Rove.

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