McMahon boosts Senate race spending

Hartford - U.S. Senate challenger Linda McMahon's fundraising may have dropped off significantly in the last three months of 2009, but the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment is spending even more aggressively than she did last fall in an effort to seize the Republican nomination.

In a report filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission, McMahon reported spending $3.4 million in the fourth quarter, even as she took in just over $35,000 from individual campaign contributors. McMahon raised $500,000 in contributions in less than three months when she jumped into the campaign to take the seat now held by Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd, though less than $5,000 of that came from individuals, with the rest coming from the candidate.

McMahon's campaign also reported Thursday to the FEC the identities of the companies and individuals who received nearly $570,000 in campaign-related payments paid directly by McMahon in the first weeks of her Senate bid. McMahon and her staff had previously reported the payments only as in-kind contributions, and refused press requests to make public the identities of its campaign vendors.

The FEC later directed the campaign to submit the names of the vendors by Thursday or face possible sanctions.

McMahon's personal wealth, which has helped underwrite her aggressive advertising campaign against her chief rival, former U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, and another well-funded challenger, financier Peter Schiff. Unlike other candidates, McMahon has not accepted contributions from individuals of more than $100.

The campaign's most recent filing shows McMahon had lent $6 million of her own money to her campaign through the end of 2009, helping to finance significant outlays to a host of prominent Republican campaign firms and consultants both inside and outside Connecticut.

Among them are Sullivan & LeShane, the prominent Hartford-based lobbying and public relations firm; November Inc., Autumn Productions and Autumn e-Media, three firms run by Las Vegas-based Republican campaign consultant Mike Slanker; and Scott Howell and Co. of Dallas, Texas, which has already been paid well over $1 million to produce McMahon's media campaign.

A spokesman for the Simmons campaign said it had yet to file its year-end report with the FEC, but would release the information publicly when the campaign does so.

Meanwhile, McMahon has disclosed the names of vendors who received more than $570,000 in payments from the candidate in the first months of her campaign.

Perhaps the most eye-popping payment in the newly disclosed expenditures was a $1.1 million check McMahon cut on Sept. 17 to Howell and Co., to underwrite the media blitz that introduced voters across the state to the then-obscure Republican challenger.

The campaign also reported a payment of nearly $103,000 for office rental fees to S.B. Andrews Co. LLC in West Hartford weeks before McMahon announced her candidacy in September. The campaign also continued to make monthly rental payments to World Wrestling Entertainment for use of office space at its corporate headquarters in Stamford.

McMahon, who resigned as CEO of WWE before launching her campaign, also continues to use the corporate headquarters as her address on her latest campaign finance filings.

The Day first requested the identity of the campaign's vendors in December. After a story noting the omission of vendors' identities, the FEC directed the campaign to file an amendment disclosing the information or face possible sanctions.

In a cover letter, campaign treasurer Robert Jentgens reiterates the campaign's position that "the McMahon Campaign believes that it is not legally required to provide this information. However, the McMahon campaign has decided to provide the requested information in the interest of transparency."

t.mann@theday.com

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