(Updated 5:30 p.m.) Her appearance in a 2010 World Wrestling Entertainment ad for the Make-A-Wish foundation was less than two seconds and her name wasn’t even mentioned, so the Federal Election Commission decided to give Linda McMahon’s 2010 Senate campaign a pass.
The 18-page report made public on Friday found that the Make-A-Wish foundation and the WWE failed to include a disclaimer at the bottom of the commercial.
The complaint was filed by the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee and its Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo, who felt there was illegal coordination between the wrestling empire and McMahon’s U.S. Senate campaign.
Besides the Make-A-Wish commercial there were also allegations that WWE “Fan Appreciation Day” held at the XL Center in Hartford three days before the election was a violation of the rules but the FEC concluded “there was no specific reference to her name, her opponent’s name, or her candidacy,” at the event.
Concerning the Make-A-Wish ad, FEC counsel found that the commercial likely violated a requirement that all ads costing more than $10,000 be reported. The WWE never reported the commercial as an electioneering communication, it found.
“While we do not have specific information regarding the cost of the communication, it would be reasonable to conclude that the cost of the communication exceeded $10,000 since WWE admits it aired the communication ‘throughout the month of October 2010.’ “
The report also found that the ad did not comply with a requirement that the WWE clearly inform viewers who was responsible for the ad.
“While the advertisement contains WWE’s logo and mentions WWE and its relationship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, we conclude that it does not comply with the specific disclaimer requirements for communications not authorized by a candidate or candidate’s committee,” the general counsel’s report read.
The counsel recommended the FEC dismiss DiNardo’s claim because “despite the foregoing conclusions, the fact remains that Mrs. McMahon’s image represents a very small portion (2 seconds) of the overall communication.”
But it was the “Stand Up for the WWE” videos that pushed DiNardo over the edge and caused her to file the complaint. Those videos which were posted on the WWE’s website tried to offer a more balanced view of the company, which was receiving a lot of bad publicity because of Mrs. McMahon’s campaign.
However, FEC concluded that those videos also did not violate the rules of illegal coordination. The FEC voted to close the case, 6-0, on Sept. 13.
“While respondents concede that such communications are public communications they still do not satisfy the content prong because none of these videos references Mrs. McMahon or another clearly identified federal candidate,” the FEC wrote in its report.
“The FEC has made it crystal clear that Linda McMahon broke federal law when she appeared in an advertisement for Make-a-Wish and did not report it or include any sort of disclaimer,“ DiNardo said in a statement Monday. “Her decision to disregard the law in order to try and score political points speaks volumes about the kind of politics she represents.“
McMahon is again running for the U.S. Senate.
“The commission’s unanimous decision speaks for itself,” McMahon’s campaign spokeswoman said. “All six commissioners, including all three Democrats, voted to close the file and take no action on the recommendation of their counsel.”