Today, Republican Linda McMahon’s campaign will be amending financial disclosure forms filed during her first campaign to include her position as sole stockholder and president of Travel Strategies.
In addition to taking over as CEO and President of the World Wrestling Entertainment in 1994 as her husband Vince was on trial defending himself against charges he sold steroids (the charges were later dismissed), McMahon also ran the travel agency that she founded in 1987. She eventually dissolved the company in 2008.
Mention of the travel agency first appeared in her May 4, 2009, filing with the Connecticut Office of State Ethics. The form was filed before she was appointed to the state Board of Education and was amended July 13, 2010 to include Travel Strategies.
Asked why it wasn’t reported on her federal disclosure, McMahon’s campaign said she no longer held any assets in the company, had sold/dissolved it before deciding to run for U.S. Senate, and must have been advised by the attorneys for her first campaign that it wasn’t necessary. On Friday, after a closer look at the federal disclosure rules, McMahon’s campaign decided it would amend the form today.
Part eight of the financial disclosure form asks the candidate to “report any positions held by you during the applicable reporting period whether compensated or not. Positions, include but are not limited to those of an officer, director, trustee, general partner, proprietor, representative, employee or consultant of any corporation, firm, partnership or other business enterprise or nonprofit.”
Reached Sunday, McMahon Campaign Manager Corry Bliss said the campaign “was made aware of a minor oversight on Linda McMahon’s personal financial disclosures submitted to the Secretary of the Senate in 2009 and 2010 and has submitted an addendum to the Secretary of the Senate to correct the issue.”
But McMahon’s Democratic opponent, Chris Murphy, and his campaign didn’t believe the oversight was minor.
“This is just one more example of Linda McMahon waiting until she gets caught before doing the right thing,” Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for Murphy, said Sunday.
McMahon waited 36 years to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars to individual creditors, something she wasn’t required to do under bankruptcy laws, until a reporter from The New London Day confronted her campaign with a copy of the bankruptcy documents from the archives in Massachusetts. McMahon thought the documents didn’t exist after having her own campaign try to dig them up during her first campaign.
But McMahon’s campaign doesn’t believe Murphy has any rght to be critical. After all, he has declined to hand over his mortgage documents to the news media to prove he didn’t get a favorable interest rate from Webster Bank on a home equity line of credit after his brush with foreclosure.
“Once again, Congressman Murphy is showing his hypocrisy by attacking Linda McMahon over a minor clerical oversight instead of talking about the issues that matter to voters,” Bliss said. “In contrast, Congressman Murphy has continually reverted to ‘Murphy’s Law’ and gone into cover-up mode and refused to provide direct answers when serious questions have arisen about his ethical lapses during this campaign.”
However, the acknowledgement in 2010 of the existence of Travel Strategies opens up an unexplored portion of McMahon’s career in business — a career that she is using to convince voters to make her the first female U.S. senator from Connecticut.
The travel agency was started before the Internet travel sites such as Priceline, Expedia, and Orbitz sprung up and began dominating the travel booking industry. Once it became commonplace to book travel online in the early 2000s, the agency’s days were numbered.
According to the Fairfield County Business Journal, Travel Strategies operated five agencies in Fairfield County in 1999 and reported more than $60 million in revenue.
Prior to selling the company and all of its assets in 2000, it looks as if WWE employees and wrestlers, who are independent contractors, were some of the agency’s biggest clients.
According to Security and Exchange Board filings for the WWE, Travel Strategies “generally handles the business-related travel arrangements of our employees and performers.” It also received an annual management fee from the WWE to handle the travel arrangements of its employees and wrestling talent.
According to the WWE’s report filed with the SEC in October 1999, the company expensed about $1.96 million to Travel Strategies.
But after selling the company to Rich Worldwide Travel in June 2000, McMahon remained the president, director, and sole stockholder for the organization. It’s unclear whether the travel agency was sold outright, or whether a share of the company was purchased, what is clear if that she remained president, director, and sole stockholder until 2008 when she dissolved it.
Todd Abrajano, McMahon’s campaign spokesman, said she got rid of all the assets for the travel company in 2000, but because of regulations regarding travel agencies she couldn’t dissolve the company immediately. He said she had to keep the company until all the travel services purchased were used and none of the customers required a refund.
From 2001 to 2004 McMahon continued to make annual filings to the Secretary of the State’s office, which named her as the president, director, sole stockholder, and sometimes chairwoman. During that time the company was located at the WWE’s Stamford address. There was no filing again until 2008 when McMahon dissolved the company.