First on CNN: Ben Carson to skip Sheldon Adelson confab

Story highlights

  • Ben Carson is the only Republican candidate not planning to attend a high-profile conference hosted by a group helmed by Sheldon Adelson
  • The Republican Jewish Coalition's winter forum in early December is expected to feature every GOP hopeful except Carson

Washington (CNN)Ben Carson is the only invited Republican presidential candidate not planning to attend the upcoming high-profile conference hosted by a group led by Sheldon Adelson, a Republican source said Wednesday, missing a top opportunity to win over some of the biggest donors in the Republican money race.

The Republican Jewish Coalition's winter forum in early December is expected to feature nearly every GOP hopeful except Carson, a Republican close the organization said. The retired neurosurgeon has surged to the top of early-state and national polls, but has recently found himself defending a series of controversial comments, including one recently in which he suggested that the Holocaust could have been lessened if citizens had been armed.
Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate, gave more money to Republican groups than any other donor in 2012 and is one of the most sought-after givers for the 2016 cycle. His top political priority has been maintaining U.S. support of Israel.
    Carson spokesman Doug Watts confirmed that the candidate has "no plans at this time" to attend the event because it had "other things to do."
    "All the candidates are invited and those who want to show that they care about the Republican Jewish community are expected to attend," said the Republican close to the group.
    The 2016 Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington will feature some candidates perceived by some Jewish leaders as more hostile to the Zionist group's mission, like Sen. Rand Paul and businessman Donald Trump. Other Jewish Republicans say they don't share the same concerns about Trump's candidacy, however.
    Carson's absence at the winter forum is somewhat surprising given his fresh attention to Israel -- he visited Israel in December and told The Associated Press there that he was open to countries like Egypt clearing territory for a future Palestinian state.
    The group's board features several of the Republican party's top megadonors, including Adelson and New York hedge funder Paul Singer.