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McMahon campaign reports lush spending, but not much detail

By Ted Mann

Publication: The Day

Published December 11. 2009 4:00AM   Updated December 11. 2009 9:09AM
Campaign finance report unclear about where the money went

Hartford - According to campaign finance reports, Linda McMahon spent more than $2 million in the first three months of her bid for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.

But what those filings don't always show is who the campaign actually paid.

In the quarterly summary the McMahon campaign filed with the Federal Election Commission in October, some major campaign vendors are identified, including the direct-mail contractor Majority Strategies and the communications consultants DLA LLC.

But hundreds of thousands of dollars in other campaign expenditures, for services ranging from legal advice to computer assistance, are listed as in-kind contributions from Linda McMahon herself, with no information to show what companies or individuals volunteered or were paid for that work.

That lack of detail appears to run afoul of federal regulations requiring campaigns' spending to be itemized and disclosed to the public.

The FEC report also lists McMahon's address as 1241 E. Main Street in Stamford. McMahon and her husband, Vince, live in Greenwich. The Stamford address is the headquarters of World Wrestling Entertainment, the company from which she stepped down as CEO before beginning her campaign against fellow Republicans and Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd.

A campaign spokesman said Thursday evening that McMahon had personally rented office space from the WWE at the outset of the campaign, but since moved her office to downtown Stamford.

Candidates traditionally incur costs related to campaigns, which are then counted as in-kind contributions, particularly for start-up costs like rent and office furniture, and for food and travel. There is no dollar limit on in-kind contributions by a candidate to his or her own campaign.

But McMahon's in-kind contributions are far more extensive than usual and apparently include a broad array of campaign activities.

On the Oct. 15 quarterly report, the first and most recent FEC filing of her campaign, McMahon lists in-kind contributions totaling more than $567,000, not including those for relatively common expenditures like travel and food.

Those outlays are for "computer support," "legal consulting," "political strategy consulting," "survey research" and other campaign services. None of the recipients of those payments - those who provided the services to her campaign - is identified in the report. Other consultants and contractors, meanwhile, are identified, and apparently received payment directly from the campaign, rather than from McMahon.

Ed Patru, a spokesman for the McMahon campaign, said he could not explain why so many expenditures are reported as in-kind contributions, or say whether the campaign intended to shield the identities of some of the campaign's vendors.

Patru said he would consult with the campaign's treasurer and attorneys to determine the reason some vendors have not been disclosed, and noted that many of the firms working for McMahon have already been made public through news media reports. They include pollster Moore Information and media consultants Scott Howell & Company, Patru said in an e-mail message.

FEC regulations permit in-kind contributions from a candidate to his or her campaign, and not all expenditures must be itemized to the same degree, said Christian Hilland, a spokesman for the commission.

But in the case of payments like the $38,000 McMahon paid for unspecified "media consulting" this fall, campaigns are expected to identify the recipients of their payments, he said.

"Yes, that would be an amount that would require disclosure," Hilland said.

The disclosure discrepancy came to light after the news that one of McMahon's paid consultants, Mike Slanker, was issued a subpoena for documents by the Senate Ethics Committee, which is investigating Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev.

Though identified by McMahon's campaign as a consultant, neither Slanker nor his firm, November Inc., is identified by name in the campaign's FEC report.

t.mann@theday.com

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