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Senate race: Is this the best we can do?

By Dick Ahles

Publication: The Day

Published September 16. 2012 4:00AM

Now that we know both candidates for United States Senate have a history of not paying their bills, I guess the playing field is somewhat leveled.

During her long campaigns for the Senate, wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon has tried to make a virtue of the fact that she and husband Vince had their home foreclosed and went bankrupt before they achieved great success with their "family oriented entertainment business."

Left unsaid were the details, that place where the devil lurks. But what has been revealed about stiffing creditors and not paying federal taxes for five straight years is not, shall we say, senatorial.

Now it turns out her opponent, Chris Murphy, also faced legal action for not paying his rent before moving up to not paying his mortgage. Details of Murphy's adventures as a youthful deadbeat are also not forthcoming but what we know is not flattering for a Senate aspirant either. And we're stuck with both of them.

All we can say for sure is that Murphy's youthful indiscretions pale beside McMahon's in scope and entertainment value, but the conduct of both of these Senate aspirants would make one wonder if they are the best and brightest for our highest federal office.

To understand or sympathize with the most recent revelations concerning Murphy, you have to believe his campaign's assertion that as a young member of the General Assembly, he didn't realize he hadn't paid his apartment rent until he was sued by the landlord. Then, you have to believe that as a newly elected congressman, he didn't notice he hadn't paid his mortgage for so long, he was threatened with foreclosure by the bank.

Then there's also the forgiving nature of the bank involved, its willingness to advance him credit after the mortgage was settled and the pure coincidence of Murphy serving on the House Financial Services Committee, which regulates banks.

When all this happened, way back in the first decade of the current century, 2003 and 2007 to be precise, Murphy was a mere lad of 30 and 34. He's now 39, old enough to be a senator.

McMahon, 64, was a bit younger, in her mid- to late-twenties, when she and husband Vince had their financial escapades, which, her commercials tell us, make her just like you and me.

That would be true if you or I had been willing in 1974 to risk investing in the late Evel Knievel's ability to catapult his motorcycle over the Snake River in Idaho. (The inferior Idaho locale was chosen after the federal government wouldn't let Knievel jump over the Grand Canyon, which may explain Linda's disdain for big government telling us how to live our lives.)

The jump failed when Evel's parachute opened just before his motorcycle crashed into rocks short of his goal. The stunt was widely covered but it turned out to be a financial bust for the McMahons, who apparently learned nothing and decided to try again two years later by investing in a Tokyo fight between an aging Muhammad Ali and a Japanese wrestler.

This was even a bigger flop, financially and artistically, with the audience reportedly throwing rubbish at the ring and shouting "money back, money back," presumably in Japanese.

Among those not getting their money back were the McMahons, who then filed for bankruptcy and lost their home, cars and credit, according to Linda. They also didn't pay their taxes.

Much of this was first reported by Brian Lockhart of The Connecticut Post during McMahon's 2010 campaign against Richard Blumenthal, now Sen. Blumenthal.

Murphy's mistakes have a more common touch. People may understand a young guy or couple failing to pay bills on time, especially in these tough times, but Murphy's campaign would have us to believe these were late payments he failed to notice until the creditors resorted to drastic legal action, a lawsuit from the landlord and foreclosure by the bank. This doesn't happen after missing a couple of payments, as his campaign says.

And it all happened during the prosperous, go-go years just before all those mortgage foreclosures like Murphy's "oversight" led to the nation's financial collapse.

But don't despair. You can vote against one of them in November.

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