March 3rd, 2010
06:30 PM ET

Cost of Entry: 50 million bucks!

Program Note: Don't miss Randi Kaye's full report on the cost of entry into politics tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/18/art.mcmahon.gi.jpg caption="Republican Senate Candidate Linda McMahon."]

Randi Kaye | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

What would you do with $50 million? Would you spend it on a campaign for the U.S. Senate?

That’s what Republican Senate Candidate, Linda McMahon, says she’s willing to do to get to Washington. She’s been campaigning in Connecticut and has said she’s willing to spend her own money - $50 million bucks – on her campaign if necessary.

We tried to interview Linda McMahon for our story on AC360° tonight, but her campaign staff repeatedly told us she was too busy. So, last night, we went to her in Hartford, CT.

She was debating her two primary opponents, who aren’t exactly hurting, but have considerably less than money than she does.

Candidate Rob Simmons has raised about $3 million dollars, and Peter Schiff earned about $17 million just last year, but even that may not be enough to compete with McMahon.

If you recognize her name, you must be a fan of wrestling. McMahon and her husband, Vince McMahon, co-founded Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment. As she tells it, they were bankrupt all those years ago and then turned that bankruptcy into a billion dollar business.

Maybe you’ve seen Linda McMahon on stage in the midst of a “smackdown” with her daughter and some of the wrestlers. It’s certainly entertaining to watch, but critics say it hasn’t exactly prepared her for public office and she’s using her money to “buy the senate seat.” She gave up a salary of nearly $900,000 to run for office.

McMahon has been fielding questions about her money for months. Last night, at the debate in Hartford, Connecticut, she told reporters “you can’t buy an election, you need the voters.”

But her opponent, Rob Simmons, told me “you can’t compete with someone who has tons of money.” He likes to tell voters, “I don’t need 40 or 50 million dollars, I need people and voters.”

Political experts are predicting that this could be the most expensive midterm election in history. The Center for Responsive Politics expects about $3.7 billion dollars will be spent in November this year. One expert told me, “there is no recession in politics.”

McMahon certainly has an advantage in her case. She doesn’t have to spend time fundraising because she’s so wealthy. She can spend as much as she wants on advertising on TV, newspapers, and radio. She can also afford to pay for a quality staff. Her campaign director, I’m told, is earning nearly $300,000 a year. She has already spent about $1 million on mailings and literature.

In Connecticut, where 37,000 families are facing foreclosure, McMahon’s critics say she’s out of touch. She just bought a $4 million condo last month, and she owns an $8 million home in one of the most expensive communities in the country, Greenwich, CT. She also has two other condos in Las Vegas and Boca Raton, Florida.

She calls herself a fiscal conservative and says that’s what Washington needs. The question is what’s it going to cost her to get there? What is her “cost of entry?”

Do you think you have to be rich to win? You may not have to be, but the experts say, it certainly helps!

Filed under: Randi Kaye • Raw Politics
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Mr. B, TN

    She may be a fantastic senator, she has plenty of cash so she hopefully will not be easily swayed by "gifts". As a leader, you may not know everything about anything but you can surround yourself with people and accumulate knowlege. The determining factor would be what one would do with that knowlege. She may have a lot of property, money, etc... but they earned it through entertaining millions of people. I would think that it shows she may be more in tune with people than she is given credit for. If all else fails perhaps she can "pile-drive" a few liberals to make this a better place!

    March 4, 2010 at 4:55 am |
  2. Michael

    If there is a person that is so well qualified and liked, it will not matter how much someone else throws into a campaign.

    March 4, 2010 at 4:37 am |
  3. Will

    Money is overrated if you're not a good candidate. In 1998, Al Checchi spent $40 million of his personal fortune trying to be elected governor of California and only received 12% of the vote in the primary. Gray Davis got almost three times more votes despite having a tiny fraction of that much money, and a personality as bland as his name.

    March 4, 2010 at 4:21 am |
  4. Jake

    Instead of concentrating on Linda's money, try focusing on her platform. I think she would make an excellent Senator.

    March 4, 2010 at 4:13 am |
  5. Dee

    If it makes her happy to run for office then, by all means, let her spend her money and run. Who cares??

    In the end it's votes that count and not everyone can be bought.

    March 4, 2010 at 3:27 am |
  6. Rich J

    Linda McMahon is a refreshing change. Other Connecticut Senate candidates are long time anti-business political hacks. She is the one authentic pro jobs conservative in the race.

    But don't worry – when the chips are down, Connecticut voters are generally pretty mindless and one of the hacks will get elected to the Senate. Connecticut is about 5 years away from where California is now and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

    Too bad – Linda would make a great Senator.

    March 4, 2010 at 2:48 am |
  7. carl

    I said she SHOULD go for it... it is referable she spends all her money. I don't care whether or not she wins, but that 50 millions can create alot of jobs!!! people like her who has alot of money need to spend !!!!!

    March 4, 2010 at 2:39 am |
  8. Gar O'Connell

    I have wondered what I'd do with a "good" hunk of money , as many of us have. I always get to the same old ," buy this , do that." One thing I would do for sure , I would make sure to invest the $$ in a way to make more than I invested. If I had $50 mil to "spare", I would be counting on making more than that. Just saying. How could a person make a profit at that kind of job?

    March 4, 2010 at 2:31 am |
  9. Gus

    well she is a qualified actress, like the not so great Reagan and Schwartzbnegger, she would be just another actor on the national stage.

    March 4, 2010 at 2:18 am |
  10. Jim in NorCal

    This is EXACTLY like the Meg Whitman story in California. Whitman, the ex-ceo of e-bay is another billionaire trying to buy her way into office, except she's running for governor. Meg's got a good chance of loosing though,.....been lots of republicans, spent a lot of money in Ca., only to loose.

    March 4, 2010 at 2:03 am |
  11. Fletch Whipp

    I just cannot comprehend spending $50,000,000 for a public office job... Is power really seriously THAT great a driving a force? Honestly I'm not being sarcastic, I just cannot comprehend why various candidates would spend tens of millions of their own money to get a public office job that pay 1-2% of what they would invest. I read about Meg Whittman's run for Governor in California now this... I'm confused and shocked. I know mere fractions of that money would benefit productive families in this economy who are struggling, yet, is someone's ego that out of control that they wouldn't blink an eye in wasting money like that? What a sorry state of affairs this country is in.

    March 4, 2010 at 1:42 am |
  12. Saba Rahman

    and I agree with the experts........but candidates with smaller war chest sometimes surprise the experts..............wonder what that minimum $ threshold is after which money is not really relevant in an election. Or is it?

    March 3, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
  13. teresa, oh

    I am absolutely disgusted... I think I'm going to vomit.

    A fool and his / her money are soon parted. Absolutely insane.

    March 3, 2010 at 2:19 pm |