Connecticut Democrats filed a Federal Elections Commission complaint today against Linda McMahon, her campaign and World Wrestling Entertainment, charging they violated the law by removing racy WWE videos last month.
McMahon (R-CT) is one of several candidates hoping to challenge Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) next year. She is the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment and wife of WWE principal Vince McMahon.
After TPMDC and others posted videos of WWE scenes depicting simulated rape and a wrestler pretending to have sex with a corpse, they were taken down from YouTube.
We spoke at the time to WWE’s VP of PR and corporate communications, who said accusations the removal had anything to do with politics are false, but Democrats charge the move is equivalent to a campaign contribution from a corporation.“It’s an ongoing battle with online piracy,” Robert Zimmerman told TPMDC. “It’s copyrighted material, it’s our intellectual property.”
He said they “scour” the Internet for their videos and said they go after all of them, not just ones used for political purposes, adding: “We would love to be able to take everything down.”
But the Democrats suggest that WWE removing the videos is considered an “in-kind corporate contribution” because the corporation did not remove the more than 500,000 videos that also could be considered copyrighted.
They have asked the FEC investigate and “impose the maximum fines permitted for such violations.”
“WWE has selectively enforced its rights only insofar as they benefit Ms. McMahon’s candidacy. The facts demonstrate that WWE made expenditures in connection with an election, in clear violation of FECA,” the complaint charges. “WWE expended its corporate resources – including the time of Mr. Zimmerman and other corporate personnel, and its attorneys – all used in the service of Ms. McMahon’s campaign to force YouTube to remove only the videos that reflected poorly on Ms. McMahon, while ignoring the multitude of other WWE-owned material still hosted on YouTube.”
McMahon spokesman Ed Patru called the charge a “baseless accusation” and said the campaign has complied with all FEC rules and regulations.
“This latest attack from Chris Dodd speaks volumes about just how worried he is about Linda’s campaign,” Patru said. “Chris Dodd has an enormous credibility problem, and one of the reasons people don’t trust him is because of his apparent coordination with AIG executives in which he gave carte blanche to his political supporters instead of regulating them, and then arranged behind closed doors to have them receive millions in taxpayer-funded bonuses. It’s troubling that Chris Dodd’s political apparatus seems more concerned with watching wrestling videos on the Internet than restoring trust in government.”
We’ve done a new round of calls asking for comment from WWE and will update if they respond.
In the meantime, Connecticut Democrats are using the issue for political mileage.
“If Linda McMahon is going to talk glowingly about her role as CEO of the WWE, then she also must answer for the kind of female-degrading, sexually-exploitive, steroid-fueled programming it’s become known for,” said Nancy DiNardo, chairwoman of the Connecticut Democratic Party.
“And furthermore, she’s sorely mistaken if she thinks the WWE can do her dirty work for her as she stays above the fray,” DiNardo added. “She might claim to be a different kind of Senator, but Linda McMahon’s illegal coordination with the WWE doesn’t do anything to bolster that image. If anything, it looks like McMahon has chosen to call in a corporation run by her family to fight her battles for her.”
Late update: Still no word from WWE, but Collen Flanagan of the Connecticut Democrats responds to Patru’s statement:
“Less than a week after it was reported that Linda McMahon used her position to get a multi-million dollar bailout from state taxpayers for her billion-dollar wrestling empire, she’s taken her campaign further into the gutter by telling flat-out lies in an attempt to distract from her own legal problems. Chris Dodd didn’t coordinate anything with AIG, and McMahon’s assertion to the contrary is demeaning to the people she seeks to represent.”