It has been a bad week for the Linda McMahon US Senate campaign and things appear to be going downhill fast, with more media disclosures on her company's finances, questions arising about her stance on the plight of mentally disabled, and dissention in the ranks over the state GOP chairman's personal interest in her campaign.
First it was disclosed that some of McMahon's "hard-earned money" that is funding her $50 million campaign for the Republican nomination is available due to generous state tax breaks and federal bailout funds for her firm, World Wrestling Entertainment. McMahon and her husband Vince own the WWE and until last September she was the CEO. She stepped aside from that position when she declared her candidacy but still is involved in the WWE in other capacities.
Then, in the middle of the media uproar over President Obama's chief of staff Rham Emanuel calling other liberal Democrats "retards," numerous videos surfaced of the WWE showcasing the beating and otherwise demeaning of a character who plays the part of a Downs Syndrome afflicted wrestler. (The media seems to be overlooking that McMahon made financial donations to Emanuel prior to Obama being elected.)
But worse, once the videos surfaced, the McMahon camp issued a news release saying the character named Eugene - played by the nephew of a former WWE executive - who wears a costume with a backwards E on the front - was actually "heroic and inspirational." No contrition, no apology, but rather an in-your-face response. This as videos show members of the McMahon family pouring paint on him, sticking his head in a toilet bowl and other wrestlers repeatedly beating the living daylights out of him both in and out of the ring.
When McMahon's Republican opponent, former Congressman Rob Simmons blasted McMahon for the WWE's choice of characters, she retorted that Simmons doesn't understand the difference between soap operas and reality. I see. In the following video there are repeated references to "retard strength," and "a mental deficient's elbow." I fail to see how such commentary enhances the lives of people with developmental disabilities whether in real life or a script.
On the financial front the Journal Inquirer newspaper disclosed in November that the WWE was eligible for millions in film tax credits to offset the cost of its lucrative film production activities. It further reported this week that World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., the company controlled by Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Linda McMahon and her husband, expects to benefit from changes in federal tax law inserted into the government’s massive bank bailout program by the Democrat she sought to unseat, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd ....
McMahon, who has taken a hard line against government bailouts and made much of her experience of building a company "without the help of big government," was pilloried by her opponents after the Journal Inquirer reported in October that the company had been handed nearly $3 million in state tax credits.
The incentives were awarded eight weeks after she stepped down as WWE's chief executive officer in September to challenge Dodd, a five-term Democrat who has since said he won't seek re-election.
State records later released to Journal Inquirer showed that WWE actually was in line to receive $7 million more of the tax credits, and the company's spokesman, Robert Zimmerman, said WWE would apply for more of the incentives based on its production costs in Connecticut over the last year.
Zimmerman, moreover, last week confirmed that WWE also plans to benefit from an amendment Dodd - the chairman of the Senate banking committee - attached in October 2008 to a tax extension bill that was folded into the federal government's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.
But what I found especially troubling in the report was a comment from Zimmerman that even though the WWE has laid off workers in the past year, the corporation was eligible for this tax credit because it supposedly is creating jobs. "We shoot a lot down in New Orleans now," he said. "So we're actually doing what this is supposed to do, creating jobs."
Zimmerman initially dismissed questions about how WWE might benefit from the controversial government bailout, saying its state film credits had nothing do with TARP and suggesting that McMahon's political opponents were attempting to stoke a bogus news story. But the spokesman later said that after checking with the company’s accountants he had learned that the company could benefit from the tax breaks Dodd had inserted in the bailout package.
Exactly how are unemployed workers in the state of Connecticut benefitting from the WWE, based in Stamford, getting tax breaks and TARP funding, and then hiring people in New Orleans? No slam to New Orleans intended here, but frankly, we need the jobs in Connecticut.
McMahon has hired some people here, at high rates, including her campaign communications manager, Suzan Bibisi, wife of Connecticut's Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy. The JI reported that Bibisi, a competent and experienced journalist and communications professional, is paid $125,000 per year by McMahon - good for her - but Healy has been accused of helping his wife's employer to the detriment of the Simmons campaign, a disclosure that is causing substantial criticism within the GOP rank and file.
Healy denied to the JI that he has helped McMahon, and said he has not participated in a whisper campaign inside and outside the party that seeks to undermine Simmons. But it sure doesn't look good for the party chairman's wife to be the communications manager for McMahon when there is a battle for the seat about to vacated by Chris Dodd - even though she has the absolute right to select where and for whom she wants to work. And there has been plenty of commentary between party members that Healy will benefit at least indirectly, as long as McMahon is in the race and his wife continues to be paid by her.
There is plenty for Republicans to worry about regarding a potential matchup between Linda McMahon and Democrat Richard Blumenthal, the designated replacement for Dodd. Much of the media is giving her a pass on this controversy, and it could be argued that this is because the media is left-leaning, pro-Democrat and she would be a far easier opponent for Blumenthal than Simmons.
McMahon has a compelling history, and by all accounts is a very nice person who presents herself well. But before November this race is going to be about the economy, national security and foreign relations - especially our debt to and trade deficit with China. Simmons, the former Connecticut Business Advocate, decorated Vietnam veteran, retired US Army intelligence officer, and CIA operative who speaks fluent Chinese, has far more experience on all three of those issues than anyone else in the race, regardless of their party.
And should McMahon become the GOP candidate, the media will suddenly grow fangs in an effort to help Blumenthal. You can take that to the bank. The murmurs heard about the WWE finances, handicapped "talent" and other, more egregious issues within the professional wrestling business will become a deafening roar, and it will continue throughout the fall, right to election day.
McMahon might have had a chance against Dodd, but with what is going on now and what will arise in the future, she has little to no chance of beating Blumenthal. I say that objectively and with no rancor. That's just the way it is.
McMahon has spent more than $6 million of her own money on this campaign, and raised only about $10,000. That speaks volumes because if people aren't willing to donate even a token amount for the cause, then they aren't going to vote for her either. And she hasn't been able to overcome Simmons' lead in the polls. Convention delegates should take a close look at that issue.
Meanwhile, members of the party hierarchy are supposed to at least give the appearance of objectivity and neutrality, regardless of how they may feel personally. The decision on who will represent the Republican party in the November election is supposed to be made by the delegates to the party convention or, if there is a primary, by a majority of Republican voters.
It would be naive to think that the GOP State Central Committee or for that matter, even the party leadership, is really neutral. But there is at least supposed to be an appearance of neutrality. Unfortunately, that no longer exists in this race.
Saturday, February 06, 2010