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
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!
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