Reporting Paul Murnane
STAMFORD, CT (WCBS 880 / AP) - The chairwoman of the Connecticut Democrats on Wednesday sought a federal elections investigation into whether Republican Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign illegally coordinated with the professional wrestling company where she was CEO until last fall.
Nancy DiNardo filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission two days after World Wrestling Entertainment began an Internet-based campaign dubbed “Stand up for WWE” to combat what the Stamford-based company calls unfair attacks in the Senate race.
“Linda McMahon’s $50 million attack machine is calling in corporate reinforcements with no respect for the law or the voters of Connecticut,” said DiNardo, referring to the amount of money McMahon has said she’ll spend on the race to win the seat now held by Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd.
Ed Patru, McMahon’s campaign spokesman, called the complaint “utterly baseless.”
“This campaign scrupulously complies with all FEC regulations and has not and does not coordinate with WWE concerning its various corporate activities,” he said. “We look forward to the FEC promptly dismissing this specious complaint.”
WWE defended its new campaign, saying it needs to counter “malicious and misleading attacks reported by some members of the media.” The company’s written statement said the initiative “has resulted in yet more false allegations,” but did not refer specifically to DiNardo’s complaint.
“World Wrestling Entertainment will not be bullied or intimidated by whining allegations intended to censor our freedom of speech,” said Vince McMahon, the chairman and CEO of WWE and Linda McMahon’s husband.
Earlier this week, Patru said the company initiated the Internet campaign “on its own” and how “the company did not seek the campaign’s input and the campaign did not provide any input.”
Everything from WWE’s programming to how it treats employees has been criticized by McMahon’s opponents in the primary and general election, including Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. McMahon, a political newcomer, has pitched herself to voters as a successful businesswoman and has pointed to the success of the WWE. She has acknowledged that the publicly traded company has evolved over the years and changes have been made, such as all programming now being rated PG.
Vince McMahon organized the “Stand up for WWE” effort, which began on Monday. In an interview with The Associated Press in August, he said he was concerned about how the company was being portrayed by his wife’s opponents in the Senate race.
The company’s campaign, which is featured on WWE’s Internet site and involves social networking websites, calls on WWE fans worldwide to voice support for the company “because it has come under unfair and biased attack from certain politicians and media outlets,” according to a company statement on its Web site.
WWE said videos will feature Vince McMahon and several WWE stars talking about the company’s PG-rated content, its health and wellness program and charitable activities.
DiNardo argued that such videos, many of the comments to the media from WWE’s corporate communications office, as well as a planned WWE fan appreciation day scheduled in Hartford for Oct. 30, the Saturday before the election, all show there is a “improper coordination” between the candidate and the company.
DiNardo also said WWE is potentially interfering with voting on election night by holding a SmackDown wrestling match in Bridgeport.
A Quinnipiac University Poll released last week showed Blumenthal leading McMahon by double digits.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)