McMahon Campaign Cancels Money-For-GOP Registrations Voter Drive

Roll Call Photos/Newscom

The Senate campaign of Linda McMahon, the former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO and current candidate for the Republican nomination in Connecticut, has backed off from a controversial voter-registration plan that would have provided bonuses for every Republican voter registration.

The Stamford Advocate reported on the plan Friday, comparing it to the voter-registration fraud scandal that ensnared ACORN when paid canvassers were found to have filled in forms with names like “Mickey Mouse” — acts that did not lead to actual voter fraud, since there is no evidence that “Mickey Mouse” showed up to vote. The McMahon campaign was going to pay college students $10 per hour to sign up voters — with a $5 bonus for each Republican registration. Connecticut has a closed primary system, in which only registered Republicans and Democrats can vote in their respective primaries.

McMahon spokesman Ed Patru told TPMDC that the bonus structure was cancelled late Friday or early Saturday, shortly after the newspaper article was published. “I’ll say that it’s important to Linda that everything this campaign does be above board and legal,” said Patru. “While this voter registration plan for university campuses was 100 percent in compliance with the law, we want to be sensitive to perceptions as well. Because of that, the bonus structure was dropped.”I asked Patru if the campaign had any concerns or safeguards when this plan was first laid out, about the potential moral hazards involved in the pay structure — the sort of things that Republicans attacked ACORN for in 2008. For example, signature-gatherers would have incentives to create fake registrations, to falsely check off the Republican box on a registration form that had left the party field blank, or to even throw out Democratic and non-Republican registrations.

“The possibility that somebody who was registering voters, paid or unpaid, Republican or Democrat, to do something that is illegal always exists. We’re comfortable with where this plan is now,” said Patru. “Like I said, we want to be sensitive to perceptions. While the structure we had in place was 100 percent sound in terms of the legality of it, we felt that dropping that bonus structure was appropriate, given the concerns that were raised.”

College students will be paid a flat hourly rate, Patru said, with no bonuses for GOP registrations. They will also be fully informed of the key laws involved: They cannot pressure somebody to register with a particular party, or to vote for a particular candidate; They cannot forge registrations; They must turn in all registrations that are gathered. Patru said that the original plan had only been advertised for a day or two, and was never implemented — that is, no bonuses for GOP registrations were ever paid out.

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