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Daniela Altimari of the Hartford Courant has reported that Linda McMahon is still active politically in her home state, donating generously to the Republican Party and even advising local GOP chairman Jerry Labriola Jr.
In a surprising move for the publication, the Huffington Post has decided to feature Linda McMahon as a celebrity political blogger. This came with an exclusive interview for their website, where she likened WWE to a Batman movie when asked about their recent immigration themed storylines.
Two weeks after Linda McMahon lost her U.S. Senate election and she's still getting bad publicity in her home state of Connecticut, due to complaints of late payments and bounced checks to her New Haven canvassers. The ringleader claims he received the insult of condoms in his pay packet for speaking out about not being paid on time.
Interestingly, Jerry Jarrett, Jerry "The King" Lawler's wrestling business partner in Memphis for two decades, has been one of the few insiders to publicly criticise the CM Punk and Paul Heyman fake heart attack angle which WWE scripted for return of the King.
Taking a page from the old pro wrestling playbook, Linda did a softball interview with Bloomberg Businessweek earlier today to start the long hard road in turning herself from hated heel to beloved philanthropic babyface. But her efforts were probably all for naught, as her campaign manager Corry Bliss lashed out at critics, and an idea of his for the "ultimate bad taste smear job" got leaked to the press.
Everyone wants Linda McMahon to pack her political ball up and go home; the Connecticut Democrats she dug dirt on and outspent, her Republican colleagues for betraying them, the voters for filling up their airwaves with negative ads for months on end, the local media for her political ignorance... and even her husband Vince, for pissing $100 million down the drain. But Linda doesn't seem to have given up on the dream, just yet.
The final day of campaigning saw last-minute accusations of dirty tricks, Chris Murphy closing with a powerful speech, while Linda McMahon took a softer approach, focusing on grassroots efforts to get her voters out in droves tomorrow. We will update this post as more news comes in on election day itself, so follow our coverage all Tuesday long, Cagesiders.
A ringing endorsement of Chris Murphy by Barack Obama, while Linda McMahon annoys the general public with new ads that have nothing new to say, should be the final nails in her second $50 million political coffin.
The latest fairly baseless and hypocritical attack by Linda McMahon against her opponent Chris Murphy is that he's anti-woman because he pays the men on his political staff 50% more than women. Yes, this coming from the wrestling CEO that had an even bigger pay discrepancy between male and female performers!
Donald Trump has offered $5 million to Barack Obama to release his college records and passport applications in a shameless grandstand challenge, which funnily enough is the same amount that WWE the Vince and Linda McMahon Family Foundation Vince McMahon "personally" gave to Trump's own charitable foundation for his past WWE appearances.
Linda McMahon has risked alienating her conservative supporters by airing an advertisement encouraging Barack Obama voters to cross the aisle and vote for an "independent thinker". Loyal Republicans Rob Simmons and Christopher Shays, who were both defeated by Linda in past primary races, were puzzled and disappointed by the treacherous ad.
WWE is taking advantage of "corporate welfare" according to their favourite local newspaper The Journal Inquirer.
Linda McMahon took a hammering over the weekend, as all the newspapers that offered a candidate an endorsement, gave her the thumbs down, despite her opponent Chris Murphy's obvious flaws. However, the worst burial came from the Republican leaning Journal Inquirer, whose lead story focused on talking about the pure trashy filth of the Attitude Era.
Linda McMahon's fourth and final debate with Chris Murphy was devoid of any new news - the big story of the day was the Democrats attacking WWE in the local media for cheating Connecticut taxpayers while taking $22 million in tax credits from the state. WWE soon responded with a press release trumpeting how they pay their taxes, robustly defending themselves from the allegations of impropriety.
Whether intentional or not, the answer to this question seems to be yes, as an audit by WWE's home state led to a $4.4 million settlement by the company recently for withheld taxes. This could prove to be the difference maker in the U.S. Senate election in Connecticut, which is currently a statistical dead heat with Chris Murphy leading Linda McMahon by only two points, with 8% of voters still undecided.
Linda McMahon earned a score draw in her third debate, thanks to a partisan crowd that threw Chris Murphy off his game. As a wrestling fan though, I was ashamed that Linda's supporters booed Murphy for mentioning her terrible record of workplace related death as WWE CEO. That's not a cheap shot, but a very valid point that raises questions about her integrity and long term thinking abilities.
Linda McMahon's personal attacks backfire, as her response to the factual assertion that it took her 36 years to pay off her bankruptcy debts led to boos and laughters from the pro-Murphy crowd she was debating in front of.
Tonight at 7 p.m ET will be the second debate of four between Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Chris Murphy in their Connecticut U.S. Senate race. I will be watching and live tweeting from the Cageside Seats official twitter account, @cagesideseats, during the event. Follow the coverage if you're interested.
That Vince, he's a crazy old bastard, how does Linda put up with him, LOL, I wish I was a fly on their dinner table - what goes for insightful political coverage about WWE in the Connecticut media.
You may have watched the U.S. Presidential debate on Wednesday between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Cagesiders, but the election that will have the most direct effect on the wrestling business is the one in Connecticut where former WWE CEO Linda McMahon faces Democrat Chris Murphy. They faced off in their first debate this morning, which can be seen on the wfsb.com website, and delivered far more in the way of fireworks than the relatively civil affair that their party leaders had. I thought Murphy had the edge in the verbal battle, which Ken Dixon of the Connecticut Post agreed with, being the more energetic, on the ball and wittier of the two, but McMahon managed to stick to her talking points well and only made one minor slip up, so everything is still to play for, in what has become a surprisingly tight race.
The tone of the debate was set by the first question, where the topic of their financial troubles in the past was raised. McMahon struck the first blow by hammering home her accusations that Murphy benefitted from a "sweetheart" loan deal by a local bank due to his political status:
"An occasional financial slip is really not what we're talking about here. But you absolutely need to be honest with the people of Connecticut. You need to be honest about your special interest loan, you need to be honest about your attendance in Washington -- those are issues that are important to the folks of Connecticut because they want to know they can they trust [their political representatives]."
Murphy's rebuttal made Linda look pig sick, as he went after her achilles heel, her carny background in the world of scripted entertainment:
"Well, Linda McMahon should stop spreading this fiction that I have no plan to create jobs. I know she made her living making up stories in the wrestling ring, but it's not O.K. to make them up when you're running for the United States Senate."
Murphy finished off by saying that his tax cuts would focus on the middle class, not on the affluent and the wealthy, like McMahon's would, a charge she later denied.
The most heated point of the debate came soon after when Murphy accused McMahon of lifting her jobs plan, which bares a startling resemblance to Mitt Romney's economic prescription, from right wing ideologues:
"Linda McMahon's economic plan is focused on giving herself a seven million dollar tax cut and just kind of hoping that eventually that money trickles down to people that need help.... Now, Linda does have a plan on her website, but as we've recently learned a good part of that is just lifted word for word, paragraph by paragraph from right-wing Republican sites in Washington. It's not a plan for Connecticut, it's a plan that essentially parrots a bunch of talking points that haven't worked for this country."
McMahon was absolutely disgusted at the dirty smear that she was a plagiarist:
"Congressman Murphy, shame on you. You have just accused me of plagiarizing my plan. It is beneath a Congressman whose sitting today in Congress or anyone who is running for the United States Senate. You know very well that my plan is my own. I have sought the expert opinion of those outside to get the brightest and the best and every word of that plan has been cited either on the online plan or in print. You know when you got into this race as a Democrat in the state of Connecticut, you thought this was going to be a coronation, but now you're in a serious race with a serious woman and you have resorted now to these kind of policies. But it's desperate to you, Congressman Murphy."
However, as Ken Dixon of the Connecticut Post points out, there is indeed evidence of several sections of her jobs plan being copied from conservative think tank sources. Moreover, she made that exact same nasty charge to Rob Simmons, her U.S. Senate Republican primary opponent in 2010, who has now ironically become a bit of a fan of hers, though he admitted to his heinous sin and apologised. Though most damning was when she was probed after the debate was over by a reporter about whether there was anything unique to her plan, there wasn't anything solid she could point to, instead trying to bluff her way out of the question by harping on about her experience as a CEO.
Murphy fared better when the questions focused more on nitty gritty policy details. He quoted Fred Carstensen, the director of the Connecticut Centre for Economic Analysis, that Linda's economic plan would be "a recipe to balloon the federal deficit at a phenomenal rate, it looks like her items were simply picked off a menu of politically attractive items". When McMahon refused to answer whether she would consider increasing payroll taxes to help pay for Social Security, Murphy said Linda gave an answer "that was a minute and 30 seconds of I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to do if you elect me". She also avoided directly answering a question about how the recession had personally affected herself, so Murphy answered it for her:
"So how did this recession affect Linda McMahon? In 2009, Linda McMahon's company took $10 million in state tax credits designed to create jobs and at the same time she laid off 10 percent of her workforce and made $46 million that year. Now, she says it was just a tough time, it was a bad recession, well all she had to do to keep those 10 percent of her workers onboard was to just make about $8 million less that year, decide that she could get by on $38 million that year rather than $46 million and those people could still be working.... This recession hasn't seemed to have affected Linda McMahon."
He also managed to earn brownie points with the Huffington Post for calling out Linda McMahon for repeating Mitt Romney's misleading claim that Obamacare had let to a $700 billion cut of funding for Medicare:
"President Obama let Mitt Romney get away with this $700 billion lie, and I'm not going to let Linda McMahon get away with it. That money was taken out of the budgets of health insurers who were being massively subsidized for providing Medicare Advantage, it was being taken out of the pockets of drug industries, companies who were making billions off of care for our seniors."
Nonetheless, McMahon managed to keep her head above water during these exchanges, staying on message, though not being able to come up with an effective counter to the quoted attacks by Murphy.
Where Linda came really unglued was on the controversial issue of gay marriage, giving a terse, muddled answer that made her come off unprepared for such a hot button subject:
"Well, I live in Connecticut and I absolutely support America's law for, you know, same-sex marriage. And, uh, I wouldn't pretend to try to impose my will or rights on others, I think everyone should have, you know, the freedom to make that choice."
As everyone knows America currently doesn't have a same-sex marriage law and Murphy ruthlessly pounced on this slip of the tongue:
"Well, America doesn't have a law protecting same-sex marriage, in fact it has the exact opposite, the United States has a law that doesn't allow people to marry based on their choice, that discriminates against individuals based on their sexual orientation, and, you know, I think the fact that Linda McMahon spent only about 20 seconds answering that question, tell you that she's not going to stand up to her party in Washington when it comes to these issues that are right now being dominated by the social right in Washington. There is a war being waged against gays and lesbians and I've been proud to stand on one side of that war. I was proud to stand up to end the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that discriminates against brave men and women in the military and I'm proud to stand for the idea that anyone in this country, regardless of their sexual orientation, should be treated the same."
Though Linda flubbed on this topic, it was her only major mistake of the debate and thankfully it was on an issue that only directly affects a small minority of voters. She clearly knew it as well, as after the debate was over she said she would vote to repeal the Defence Of The Marriage act and gave a better answer on why she would do so (though it must be noted that this was a very recent flip flop on her previous stance, perhaps explaining why she gave such an unconvincing answer in the debate itself):
"It doesn't seem fair that the folks in Connecticut have the right to be married and they don't have the same rights as a heterosexual couple for federal benefits. I just don't think that's fair."
That's still a bit wishy washy for my tastes, but at least she's on the right side of the issue.
Murphy closed the debate by being a bit heavy handed in his criticism of Linda McMahon's attack ads. Though he's right that Linda did try to destroy Dick Blumenthal's reputation in 2010 and is attempting to do the same to him now, he went a bit far when he said Linda was engaging in "some of the most deceitful personal attack ads that this state has ever seen ... against me and my family and my wife". To be fair, Linda has done nothing in the race so far to disparage the rest of his family including his wife, while he's definitely taken some indirect shots at Linda's husband, Vince McMahon.
As Daniela Altimari of the Hartford Courant reported yesterday, the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO), a national trade union centre, has a sent a mailer to all its 38,000 members in Connecticut attacking Linda McMahon's treatment of her wrestlers during her days as WWE CEO. They are also sending out canvassers this weekend to Manchester, Norwalk, Norwich and New Britain, CT, in order to drum up support for her opponent Chris Murphy and will be lending him union activists to staff his phone lines.
The mailer, entitled "Linda McMahon doesn't care about working people", made the exact same points about WWE's handling of its workers that Richard Blumenthal did against Linda in 2010 and Murphy has done earlier in his campaign in one of his attack ads:
"[It] goes on to claim that WWE laid off 10 percent of its workforce while accepting millions of dollars in state tax breaks. It also alleges the Stamford-based wrestling and entertainment company denied health benefits to workers and expected "female employees to submit to sexual humiliation for the sake of...profit margins."
At the time of Murphy's ad, WWE responded to these allegations admitting that they had indeed laid off 10% of its workforce in 2009 "due to one of the worst economic downturns in history" (which Vince McMahon blamed on Barack Obama), but argued that they had since gone on a hiring spree (in preparation for the WWE Network) and now employs 700 people, more than a hundred extra staff than three years ago. They also made a robust defence of their classification of WWE wrestlers as independent contractors, which my colleague Thomas Holzerman called yesterday on a piece about TNA abusing that status "one of the most abhorrent parts of the wrestling industry":
"All 700 full-time WWE employees have always had health insurance as well as generous benefits provided by WWE. All WWE in-ring performers, ‘Superstars,' also have health insurance as a requirement of their contract with WWE. In addition, WWE pays for all medical treatment related to any in-ring related injuries and associated rehabilitation costs.
Like professional golfers and tennis players or entertainers such as actors and singers, WWE performers are independent contractors and are personally responsible for acquiring their own health insurance. The average compensation for our main-roster full-time Superstar is $250,000/year and no full-time performer makes less than $100,000 easily enabling them to afford health insurance."
It's worth noting that the contractual provision for WWE wrestlers to have mandatory health insurance that they pay for themselves was only initiated by the company last May, after it had become an issue for Linda McMahon during her last election campaign in 2010. Moreover, even though they are paid well by ordinary standards, due to their dangerous line of work an insurance policy will be very expensive for a WWE performer to obtain by themselves. Adding in all the road expenses that WWE refuses to pay for too, which actors and singers would get taken care of, the opening match acts that make the bare minimum $100,000 a year, probably don't have a much better standard of living than the average middle class family in Connecticut.
However, Irv Muchnick raises a great point about how much the AFL-CIO really cared about WWE workers when they were quiet as a mouse during the state of Connecticut's badly mishandled investigation into whether WWE had misclassified its wrestlers as independent contractors:
Big Labor had a chance to make a real statement here - not just put out a campaign press release - two years ago. And they blew it. So why should anyone listen to them today?
In 2010, while Richard Blumenthal was fending off Linda McMahon in her first race for a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut, WWE was under investigation by the state Labor Department under a tougher misclassification statute drafted by a bipartisan commission, on which Blumenthal had served as state attorney general....
The savvy WWE ran rings around the Labor Department audit; it was a squash worse than Ryback vs. Kay Fabe. In May 2011 the company settled with the state for $7,000, in a nickel-and-dime dispute over a couple of casual employees in the video department from years back, and WWE immediately leaked to the media that the probe was over, along with its comically de minimis substance. Labor Commissioner [Glenn] Marshall evidently did not push for examination of the status of the core employees of WWE's core business: the wrestlers.
If the AFL-CIO had publicly intervened during this audit, then maybe Marshall would have been compelled to take the local corporate giant on and fight their lawyers tooth and nail to attempt to correctly classify WWE wrestlers as employees. But, why bother, if no-one, not even the largest federation of trade unions cares to stand up to help WWE Superstars claim their illegally withheld benefits. Only now, when Linda McMahon is running neck and neck with Chris Murphy and her election is a much more distinct possibility than two years ago, a scenario that would surely threaten the AFL-CIO's interests, do they give two hoots about her ruthless exploitation of wrestlers. Maybe these two have much more in common than they would like to believe?
Meanwhile, in a story that would confirm the worst fears of the AFL-CIO, the Huffington Post reported yesterday that Linda McMahon told a group of her Tea Party supporters in Waterford, CT, on April 20th that she would consider a range of measures that would drastically overhaul Social Security to reign in costs. These include raising the retirement age from 65, introducing means testing and most ominously adding a sunset provision, presumably so that a less "generous" Social Security compact could be brought in for future generations. Given how cagey Linda has been about her real plans as Senator, I imagine that she didn't want these thoughts to a private, receptive audience to be published in the run up to the election. They give yet more ammunition to Chris Murphy to paint her as a greedy CEO out for herself, rather than the best interests of the rest of her local community. Just what she needs!
The key battleground in Connecticut's 2012 U.S. Senate race is for the hearts and minds of female voters, a key demographic that Linda McMahon did very poorly with in the 2010 election and is still struggling with according to recent polls, partially due to women being much more likely to have a negative view of professional wrestling.
Chris Murphy, who got off to a shaky start in his campaign, is trying to shore-up his female support by publishing a campaign ad this Monday (Sept. 24) where a group of women attacked Linda McMahon for her stance on female healthcare benefits:
"As CEO, Linda McMahon demeaned women to make millions in her business. She's targeting children with violent images and toys. Now, she's trying to hide that. As Senator, McMahon would support a Republican proposal that would allow my employer to deny me coverage for contraception. And she will deny coverage for mammograms; siding with the most extreme Republicans to deny women healthcare. CEO Linda McMahon was never on our side, and she won't be as Senator."
This may be a bit of an unfair attack by the Democrats, as though Linda is fiscally conservative, on social issues she is fairly liberal, for a Republican, and it's far from certain whether she would automatically support all these Tea Party inspired policies or not.
McMahon fired back on Tuesday with her own ad touting all the health benefits that she gave her own female employees as the CEO of the company that she refused to name, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE):
"Have you seen this ad? It's from Chris Murphy. It's totally false and pretty desperate. Murphy calls me anti-women. But Chris, take a look, I am a woman, a pro-choice woman. My company offered excellent benefits that included access to mammograms and access to birth control. It's absurd to claim that I'd vote differently. Murphy's had a tough few weeks, but this is really sad. I'm Linda McMahon, an independent-minded woman, and I approve this message."
Indeed, by all accounts she was a great employer to be working underneath for her female office staff, not only by offering comprehensive health insurance, but also by setting up a nursery at the company's headquarters in Stamford, CT. The advertisement is misleading though, as those health benefits weren't extended to the many female wrestlers who worked for her company while she was its CEO from 1997-2009.
Moreover, during that time period, workplace harassment of women in the WWE locker room was widespread. WWE management's lax attitude to the hazing of WWE Divas first became public knowledge when Rena Mero, aka Sable and now Brock Lesnar's wife, filed a $110 million lawsuit for emotional distress, breach of contract, and violation of Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act in June 1999. Here's the lawsuit description of the bullying Mero endured for a large portion of her WWF career:
"During the months that followed, Mrs. Mero bitterly complained about her concerns and the humiliation that she was constantly facing, which was not only interfering with her well-being, but with her safety and state of mind. For example, men would routinely walk into the women's dressing room as if by accident; men would cut holes in the walls to watch the women dressing; extras were hired as WWF regulars to expose their breasts; big nipple contests were engaged in; men regularly bragged about their sexual encounters without regard to the women present; WWF produced catalogues and tee-shirts depicting Mrs. Mero in a degrading fashion offering sexual favors; Mrs. Mero was requested to display affection to women to promote a "lesbian angle"; Mrs. Mero was asked to have her gown ripped off repeatedly (notwithstanding promises to the contrary), and Plaintiff was asked to expose her breasts by "mistake" on national television during a wrestling contest...
"Mrs. Mero felt her well being constantly threatened. For example, wrestlers regularly threatened to beat her up outside the ring; she was also threatened with having her face bitten to disfigure her and ruin her career. WWF did little, if anything, to alleviate the foregoing abuses, and indeed, its own officers regularly participated in the vulgarity...
"Mrs. Mero was also the subject of numerous off-stage threats from other female wrestlers, including the aforesaid threats of assault and disfigurement. On one occasion, her travel bag was smeared with feces to underscore the threats."
Ironically, Nicole Bass, who worked for WWF briefly as Sable's bodyguard in 1999, also filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the company after she was fired later that year, in which she made similar and more serious claims, most notably that road agent Steve Lombardi, aka The Brooklyn Brawler, had groped her breasts. Unlike Mero's lawsuit which was quietly settled, Bass' went to court in 2003 and was dismissed, despite some of her allegations likely being true, because she couldn't match WWE's firepower in court.
These were far from isolated incidents, as Randy Orton, at a time when he hadn't grown up yet and still thought he was God's gift to women, tormented Diva Search contestants turned WWE valets Amy Weber and Rochelle Loewen so much so that they both soon quit the promotion in protest rather than put up with the nasty treatment any longer.
Perhaps more worrisome for Connecticut voters than this hearsay, is WWE's calculated treatment of a pregnant woman while Linda McMahon was CEO. In July 2005, less than a month after appearing on the WWE ECW One Night Stand pay-per-view, Dawn Marie was fired by Linda's company while on pregnancy leave, similar to how they fired the late Andrew Martin when he was still recovering from neck surgery eight months earlier. Shortly after giving birth, she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claiming wrongful termination and asked to be paid for the remaining time left on her contract, less than twelve months wages, at the time of her firing. After a prolonged legal wrangle, WWE eventually settled her suit for unfair dismissal.
More recently, Kia Stevens, aka Kharma, was released from WWE in July, after suffering a miscarriage sometime in late 2011. The reason for her firing was rumoured to be the weight that she had put on during her pregnancy and the extra weight she had gained in the aftermath when she fell into a deep depression and wasn't motivated to get back into wrestling shape immediately.
Thus, the question female Connecticut voters have to ask themselves is, which of Linda McMahon's two faces will they get if she wins office? Will she treat the women of her state benevolently, like her office staff, with easy access to daycare and generous healthcare benefits, or ruthlessly, like her Divas who were denied health insurance under their flimsy classification as independent contractors, had their complaints of sexual harassment disregarded with the perpetrators often going unpunished, and were even fired when they became pregnant on the job? That's probably a fairer question to ask than debating the affect WWE programming had on young, impressionable children during the Attitude Era, given that Linda wasn't responsible for writing any of the controversial or mean-spirited storylines during that time period, but had her fingertips all over the financial and legal end of the business.
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