Follow-Up Notes on the Sexual Harassment Scandal at Senate Candidate Linda McMahon’s WWE

“Popular culture has always been a bit coarser than political leaders like to acknowledge.”

— Kevin Rennie, Hartford Courant, March 21

I know very little about Jared Bartie, the World Wrestling Entertainment executive vice president and general counsel who recently and quietly departed after an allegation of sexual harassment. Perhaps Bartie committed a singular lapse in judgment at a very bad time, and is being held up to disproportionate public shame.

But the history of the company co-founded and run by, and essentially bankrolling, Linda McMahon’s candidacy for the United States Senate – a history predating its status as a publicly traded entity with a billion-dollar market cap – shows that quiet departures of the sexually harassing (and harassed) are built into the budget.

For anyone who cares to pay attention, the lesson is that for corporations, as for the politicians who are made by them, character is destiny.

One of the many stories on this blog that no one in the mainstream media has even bunted, much less taken deep, tells how Pat Patterson, Vince McMahon’s right-hand man, resigned in 1992 in the middle of a company pedophile scandal. This was the same Pat Patterson whom Linda McMahon, in 1989, had instructed to tip off their wrestlers’ illegal steroid connection, Dr. George Zahorian, that he was under federal criminal investigation. The occupational health and safety hazards of the McMahons’ business, along with the drug cocktails prescribed by the doctors enabling it, would continue to contribute hugely to the premature deaths of scores of people involved in the production of their “fake soap opera.”

A few days, weeks, or months after Patterson’s resignation, when no one was looking, he got right back in the saddle. And the boys in the locker room, and in TV interviews, resumed telling inside jokes about how the most valuable move in wrestling was the “Pat Patterson go-behind.”

Meanwhile, the kid who had made sex-abuse allegations in a lawsuit settled just as the old Phil Donahue Show was about to tackle the scandal. Linda McMahon babysat the kid in the studio audience. Later Linda would appear at a state unemployment compensation appeal hearing to challenge the kid’s claim after he again quit or was fired.

Coarser than political leaders like to acknowledge – indeed.

***

Though the Connecticut press, as a rule, continues to cover the McMahon campaign with dog-bites-man banality, Don Michak of the Manchester Journal Inquirer yesterday produced an excellent piece headlined “McMahon family got $182 million from Bush tax break she seeks to preserve.” The full text of the story is behind the subscription wall on the newspaper’s website. Here’s the money passage:

Under “step one” of what she calls her “framework for creating jobs,” McMahon says she wants to halt the dividend tax rate from nearly tripling from 15 percent to 39.6 percent next year.

The former World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. executive adds that failing to preserve the lower rate set during the George W. Bush administration would mean “lower productivity, reduced take-home pay, and lost jobs for American workers.”

But reports the Stamford-based WWE has made to the Securities and Exchange Commission suggest that the higher levy also would prove personally costly to McMahon and her family, who have been the biggest beneficiaries of a dividend program the company created soon after the controversial tax cut was enacted in 2003.

That program, initiated two weeks after Bush signed into law the legislation that more than halved the previous tax rate, had WWE within three years granting its shareholders a relatively lavish 24 cents per share dividend every quarter.

WWE’s proxy statements show that the McMahons already have earned about $45 million in quarterly dividend payments in both 2006 and 2007 and about $46 million in both 2008 and 2009.

That adds up to approximately $182 million over the four-year period, or $193 million if [an upcoming] June payment is included.

***

Yesterday was this blog’s busiest traffic day of the year, and the second-busiest in its history.

The lead video at my YouTube channel (http://youtube.com/WrestlingBabylon) – a clip from a 2007 CNN edition of Nancy Grace just after the Chris Benoit double murder/suicide, in which I confront wrestling great Bret Hart – has passed the 10,000-view mark. My first television interview promoting CHRIS & NANCY, with Gary Radnich of KRON4 in San Francisco, has gone over 1,000 views.

Irv Muchnick

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