Archive for January 19th, 2010

Did Linda McMahon’s WWE Do No Federal Lobbying in 2009 – Or Just Not Report Any?

I am trying to figure out whether World Wrestling Entertainment, the former company of Senate candidate Linda McMahon, did Washington lobbying in 2009 – and, if so, in what dollar amounts and on what specific matters pertaining to federal legislation, regulation, and oversight.

The Center for Responsive Politics ( maintains an online database of filings by registered lobbyists. The database shows $0 in spending on behalf of WWE last year.

However, CRP’s communications director, Dave Levinthal, clarified that its $0 entry does not necessarily mean that the company did not do any lobbying at the federal level last year. It merely means that any lobbying efforts did not rise to the $10,000 threshold of reporting requirements. Each of WWE’s lobbyists could have done $0 worth of work – or $9,999.

A story on the front page of yesterday’s New York Times, headlined “Law to Curb Lobbying Sends It Underground” (, suggests that lobbyists are finding ways around strict new regulations imposed by Congress over the last two years.

Linda McMahon watchers can legitimately wonder whether WWE is an example of this phenomenon. The CRP database shows that the company’s lobbyists spent $260,000 on its behalf in 2007 – the year of Congressional probes following the Chris Benoit murder-suicide – and $80,000 in 2008.

Though possible, it is hardly intuitive that WWE, a global corporation with market capitalization of around a billion dollars, would have done no federal lobbying at all last year.

I emailed WWE’s Pittsburgh-based outside counsel, Jerry McDevitt, and requested more information. McDevitt’s law firm, K&L Gates, is one of the company’s registered lobbyists. (The other is APCO Worldwide, a well-known lobbying firm with offices in Washington and throughout the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.) I will publish here any response I get from McDevitt.

I also emailed McMahon’s campaign spokesman, Ed Patru, and will pass along whatever he says about this. I made the point to Patru that I believe McMahon, in the name of the transparency of a candidate for public office, should consider disclosing her former company’s lobbying efforts at a level above and beyond a strict and narrow interpretation of current threshold reporting requirements.

And the question, I believe, is made even more pertinent by the news that the Federal Election Commission asked the McMahon campaign to amend its recent filing to disclose in detail not just expenditures but also the names of vendors and contractors that performed services for it. The deadline for the amended filing is January 28.

Jim Barnett, campaign manager for McMahon’s Republican rival, former Congressman Rob Simmons, added another factor that warrants a close and detailed look at WWE lobbying: McMahon’s rather ridiculous claim that her campaign contributions to former Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel – a Democrat who worked in the Clinton White House and is now President Obama’s chief of staff – were “not politically motivated” but, rather, investments in WWE’s business interests.

Barnett told me that he is interested in whether Linda’s contributions to both Emanuel and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee could be regarded as part of the history of lobbying efforts by a candidate who is running as someone outside the political establishment.

“After all,” Barnett said, “she called her campaign donations ‘a cost of doing business.’”

Irv Muchnick

Irv’s Tweets

January 2010