And the prize for the most insincere gesture so far in the 2012 election goes to … Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon and husband Vince.
The big news Friday - continuing a campaign dominated by news that has nothing to do with public policy, or the problems facing Connecticut citizens and the country, or with suggested solutions to those problems - was that Linda and Vince plan to pay back, with interest, the nearly $1 million in losses creditors got stuck with when the couple went bankrupt in 1976.
Why now, you might ask? Why 36 years after the nation's bicentennial celebration coincided with the McMahons' financial discombobulation would the couple decide it was time to make good? As Ms. McMahon explains it, it is because the couple finally has a list of the folks they owe money to, thanks to The Day and its political reporter JC Reindl. Even in the make-believe world of professional wrestling, in which the McMahons made their post-bankruptcy fortune, that's a tall tale.
In running for Senate twice, first in 2010 losing to Richard Blumenthal and again this year against Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy, Ms. McMahon has sought in commercials and speeches to turn the couple's recovery from bankruptcy into a positive.
The narrative goes like this: Like many young couples they struggled, and like many entrepreneurs they took chances. When things went bad they were fed some humble pie in the form of going bankrupt. The happy ending is that they did not stay down, they achieved the American Dream and vast riches by building the WWE wrestling empire, and now Ms. McMahon is ready to go to Washington and fix the problems there.
But this rags-to-riches sales pitch always left us wondering, what about the creditors who lost out when the McMahons used bankruptcy to escape their debts? Where did they fit in the story? No one, it seemed, had been able to find the old bankruptcy records and dig further. It appeared they might no longer exist.
Undaunted, Mr. Reindl set out to find them and tracked down a partial copy of the bankruptcy file at an office of the National Archives in Waltham, Mass. Included is a list of nearly $1 million in claims from 26 creditors. Presented with the creditor list, Ms. McMahon said it was the first time she had seen it since the bankruptcy proceedings.
Then came the announcement.
"Over the past two days, Vince and I have begun attempts to locate and reach out to all the individuals on the creditor list. It is our intention to reimburse all private individual creditors that can be reached. We feel it is the right thing to do to pay them in full, including an adjustment for inflation at four times the initial amount as shown on the list of creditors," stated the Senate candidate in a press release.
After the bankruptcy proceedings ended, the McMahons had no legal obligation to repay the creditors and seemed to feel no moral obligation; that is, until they were presented with the list in the middle of the race for Senate.
The old adage about not tossing stones from a glass house seems to apply. The McMahon campaign has had great fun poking Mr. Murphy about news reports of his fiscal missteps over the past 10 years - being late on mortgage, rent and car tax payments. But he did pay, and his debts were paltry compared to the McMahons' 1976 meltdown. Then came word Friday the McMahons were late on paying taxes on their Stamford penthouse. Oops!
Over the next few weeks, the candidates have four debates scheduled. Maybe then they can talk about helping fix the financial and economic problems other people face, namely voters.