APNewsBreak: New Conn. Senate race ad accuses WWE of lobbying against state drug testing

By Susan Haigh, AP
Friday, October 8, 2010

APNewsBreak: Conn. Senate ad hits WWE on lobbying

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal on Friday launched a new TV ad that accuses his Republican rival, former wrestling executive Linda McMahon, of working to kill steroid and drug testing laws in various states.

The 30-second spot is among Blumenthal’s most critical of McMahon, who was the CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment until last fall. Citing news articles and various state records, the ad accuses McMahon of hiring lobbyists to help her “duck taxes, kill steroid and drug testing laws, and avoid health and safety protections for her workers.”

Blumenthal’s ad was viewed by The Associated Press before it was scheduled to be broadcast. It was to begin airing hours after McMahon released a dueling spot that features footage of the Democratic state attorney general answering a question, posed by McMahon during a debate this week, about how to create a job.

The ad insinuates that Blumenthal’s lengthy answer proves he “can’t create jobs, can’t help Connecticut.”

The candidates are in a heated race to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Chris Dodd, who is retiring. A recent Quinnipiac University poll gave Blumenthal a slight lead over McMahon, who has pledged to spend as much as $50 million of her own money on the closely watched race. She already has spent well over $20 million since last fall.

Blumenthal’s latest ad, which his campaign says will be widely distributed, cites instances in which McMahon or lobbyists representing WWE or its earlier incarnations went to various states to urge officials to change how professional wrestling events are regulated and taxed, or lobbied against bills regarding drug testing.

Much of the WWE’s lobbying activity occurred in the late 1980s and 1990s, although the company was involved with legislation concerning testing as recently as 2007, according to records provided by Blumenthal’s campaign.

Robert Zimmerman, a spokesman for WWE, said it makes sense for states to stop regulating professional wrestling as a sport like boxing because wrestling is scripted.

“Much like Ringling Brothers Circus and Harlem Globetrotters, WWE is sheer entertainment and therefore should not be under the purview of the antiquated rules and regulations of state athletic commissions,” he said in an e-mail.

Zimmerman said WWE is still regulated in 21 states and the District of Columbia, where rules and regulations can differ. He said the company’s Talent Wellness program is “far stricter than any medical or drug testing requirements” where there’s regulation. He said WWE is not regulated in Connecticut, but at Mohegan Sun, where the Mohegan tribe has its own athletic commission, “WWE is in full compliance with all medical, blood and drug testing requirements.” WWE has held events at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Blumenthal also has criticized McMahon for spending more than $1 million on lobbying in Washington, D.C., after a video recently surfaced of the former CEO at an April tea party event where the former CEO said she “did not spend lobbying dollars” in Washington. The lobbying is referred to in the new ad, with the announcer saying McMahon spent “over a million dollars to protect” her interests.

“Linda McMahon has tried to convince the people of Connecticut that she is something different. But as we learn more and more about her record, it’s clear she is part of the politics-as-usual problem in Washington,” according to a statement from Mindy Myers, Blumenthal’s campaign manager. “She has paid lobbyists more than a million dollars to advance her own interests and protect her own profits.”

Ed Patru, a spokesman for McMahon, said Blumenthal is focusing on the WWE to distract voters who care more about jobs and the economy.

“This election is about the economy and jobs, and Dick Blumenthal is doing everything possible to change the subject from the fact that he is clueless on how jobs are created and he’s the only candidate in America who thinks we’re in ‘good times’ economically,” Patru said in an e-mail, referring to a partial comment made by Blumenthal during the debate.

When asked about McMahon’s latest ad showing the video of Blumenthal’s answer, Meyers issued a statement reiterating how the Democrat has stood up for the people of Connecticut and small businesses for more than 20 years as attorney general and how WWE laid off 10 percent of its workers in 2009 when McMahon “took home” $46 million.

Zimmerman, the WWE spokesman, said the company is returning to its pre-layoff work force and that the $46 million was dividends paid to the entire McMahon family, with Linda receiving less than $1 million.

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