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Linda McMahon Has Spent $100 Million On Two Senate Races, Likely To Lose Both

Two years ago, former World Wrestling Entertaining CEO Linda McMahon ran what turned out to be a self-financed quixotic campaign for the Connecticut Senate seat vacated by Chris Dodd and ended up losing by nearly 12 percentage points in what was otherwise a great Republican year. She’s running again this year, and between her two campaigns she’s spent $100 million:

Linda E. McMahon’s campaign for the United States Senate has been good for Bert Volpacchio, who received $494 for a meet-and-greet with about 40 local officials last May at his restaurant, the Hot Tamale, in Seymour, Conn.

It has been great for regular suppliers like Best Buy, Staples and BJ’s Wholesale Club; for restaurants that have provided meals for volunteers like No Anchovies in Cromwell and the Sushi Palace in North Haven; for specialty businesses like Bayview Balloons of Milford, which got $830 just before the Republican primary; and for political operatives large and small.

Ms. McMahon may or may not get to influence job creation as a senator. But she has already made an impact on the Connecticut economy by dishing out close to $100 million for two Senate races over the past three years, far more than anyone has ever spent of their own money to win any federal seat. She has long since blown by the $72 million Ross Perot spent of his own money on presidential bids in 1992 and 1996.

The result is akin to a medium-size business with roughly 200 employees, a network of 13 offices and a broad constellation of consultants, marketing experts and advertising firms that include a who’s who of Republican handlers and has had a virtual monopoly in the race on the expensive New York City television market that reaches southern Connecticut. The biggest recipient thus far has been Scott Howell & Company, a Texas media consulting company, which received $24.7 million, mostly for advertising in her unsuccessful 2010 race against Richard Blumenthal, according to her campaign finance disclosure reports. She has spent at least $11 million on printing and postage.

Ms. McMahon’s millions at the very least have taken her from an obscure businesswoman overshadowed by her husband in her own wrestling company into a ubiquitous political brand in Connecticut. But with recent polls seeming to show her Democratic opponent, Representative Christopher S. Murphy, with a small lead, whether her spending can produce a Senate seat in a strongly Democratic state remains unclear.

“It’s bad enough to have ‘super PACs’ go around and spend whatever they want, but if you can just buy a Senate seat, I think that’s outrageous,” said Lowell P. Weicker Jr., the former governor and senator who in 1982 became the last Republican elected to the Senate from Connecticut. He has endorsed Mr. Murphy.

But Ms. McMahon says that spending her own money leaves her — unlike Mr. Murphy — in no one’s debt. “In the Senate I will owe you, not the special interests who corrupt so many career politicians from Hartford to Washington,” she says in one of her campaign ads.

Ms. McMahon’s campaign manager, Corry Bliss, said her spending was not an issue for voters. “The most important issue in this race is who has a plan to create jobs,” he said. “That’s what people care about.”

Ms. McMahon spent almost $50 million, nearly all of it her own, in her 2010 race. She has already lent her current campaign $42.6 million, finance reports show. Candidates may raise money to pay back such loans, but it is quite likely that most of her loans will not be repaid.

She had outspent Mr. Murphy by more than four to one at the end of September, but her campaign notes that spending by unions and other outside groups supporting him narrowed that gap. (Outside groups, including the national parties, had spent about $8.5 million in support of Mr. Murphy and less than $1 million for Ms. McMahon through Thursday, according to campaign finance records.)

Before Labor Day, there were signs that McMahon might actually have a shot a winning against Murphy, and she’s definitely likely to finish better than she did two years ago. However, the polls on the eve of the election make it look like Murphy is going to win here. McMahon has not led in a poll since September, and Murphy now has a lead outside the margin of error. Considering that Connecticut is going to go heavily for President Obama on Tuesday, I don’t see any way McMahon wins.

All of that leads to a discussion about the $100 million. Personally, I don’t have anything against self-financed candidates, but I also don’t really understand them. Even if you are fabulously wealthy, why waste money on something like a political campaign. Meg Whitman spent $175 million on her race for California Governor two years ago, and ended up losing to Jerry Brown. Now, there are apparently some people in the Connecticut GOP who think that if McMahon loses Tuesday, she’s going to consider a run for Governor in 2014. I suppose when you have money to burn……

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. James Joyner says:

    I suppose at some point, you’ve got more money than you can really spend, I guess. There have been cases–Mike Bloomberg and Jon Corzine being the best recent cases–where self-financed candidates have won really major offices. But I figure that, if you can’t raise money, it’s probably a good sign that you’re unelectable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “I suppose at some point, you’ve got more money than you can really spend, I guess. ”

    Yes, but remember, if we raise taxes on these people by even one percent it’s the greatest evil mankind has seen since the Holocaust.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  3. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Even if you are fabulously wealthy, why waste money on something like a political campaign.

    Power and prestige. Plus at a certain point for the ultra wealthy money becomes confetti.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Argon says:

    She should just run for state senate or house and build up her credibility the old fashioned way: Earn the respect of her constituents. What’s with this ‘buy your way to the top’ mentality?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. @Argon:

    That would require recognizing that there are skills necessary to be a good competition which must be learned by working up through the system, rather than the “any businessman can run the country” BS the Republicans keep pushing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. @Stormy Dragon:

    Be a good politician, even.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. @Argon: She’s too old. She turned 64 last month.

    Frankly, I’m not voting for either of those idiots. I’m writing in a vote for William Tong.

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  8. Gustopher says:

    I think the people of the tristate region appreciate the $100m stimulus provided by Linda McMahon. This money has gone primarily to ad executives, who then spend it all on hookers and blow — and as the old adage goes, the only people who hang onto money for less time than ad ad executive are prostitutes and drug dealers.

    So, the money quickly trickles down into the community, through various service industries, many of them ultimately legitimate. .

    Thanks, Linda! You’re helping reduce unemployment and ensure the anti-colonialist usurper gets reelected!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  9. edmondo says:

    The joke’s on us, isn’t it?

    Aren’t all those “loans to the campaign” considered bad debts and as such deductible from the McMahon’s federal income taxes?

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  10. al-Ameda says:

    On the bright side, she’s really wasting her money, and will have less to contribute to conservative PACs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Moosebreath says:

    This post reminds me of a (likely apocryphal) story from 1960’s Presidential campaign. JFK was told by his father, “Spend as much as you need to win, but not one cent more. I’ll be damned if I pay for a landslide.”

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  12. superdestroyer says:

    Money has been the most overrated thing in politics. Of course all of the discussions on money means that the mean, the pundits, and the wonks get to ignore demographics which is actually much more important. There will not be enough middle class, private sector whites in the future to sustain the Republicans. That means that the automatic Democratic Party voting non-whites, public sector employees, and other core blocks of the Democratic Party realize that they will dominate the future of politics in the U.S.

    What is absolutely amazing is how few wonks and pundits are willing to think about what the United States will be like when dominated by one political party.

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  13. blackfriday says:

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded
    this onto a co-worker who has been doing a little homework on
    this. And he actually bought me dinner because I stumbled upon it for
    him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!
    ! But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this matter here on your blog.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0