COMMENTARY: Of Foreclosure, Unpaid Creditors and a Loan Shark: It’s McMahon Who Needs to Explain Personal Financial Problems

(UPDATED 10:45 a.m.)

The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Linda McMahon is engaged in a brilliant but deceitful strategy that has enabled her to deflect questions on issues where she is vulnerable: she is attacking her opponent in the very areas in which she has exposure. McMahon has put Democrat Chris Murphy on the defensive with a barrage of negative attacks on a number of issues with a mega-war chest built on a questionable business that she now sees the need to try to erase from existence.

So far, it’s working. The latest polling shows the race is statistically dead even.

The McMahon campaign has spent a considerable amount of money accusing Murphy of having been delinquent in his personal finances including missed rent and mortgage payments. The campaign concludes that Murphy got some sort of sweetheart deal with his bank despite the fact that any financial expert asked says there is nothing nefarious about it. The McMahon hit machine may have gone a bit too far here — Webster Bank is demanding a public retraction of the allegations.

It’s Linda and Vince McMahon who missed mortgage and rent payments in the past that led to an actual foreclosure and multiple moves when their financial situation made them unwelcome tenants. McMahon wears her family’s disastrous personal financial past as a badge of honor while her campaign portrays Murphy’s considerably smaller mess as reason not to vote for him. Murphy corrected course as a young lawyer, husband, and father as he seeks to become the least wealthy member of the U.S. Senate. 

Then there is the pact the McMahons made with convicted Waterbury loan shark Victor Colaci. The Courant reported the details of the deal back in May. One can only imagine the meltdown McMahon’s Lee Atwater-like campaign manager Corry Bliss would have had if Murphy had been in the same zip code as such a character, let alone actually entering into some sort of contract with his ilk. The McMahon-Colaci deal apparently was legal and paid back (which is a good thing because Colaci was for real, not like the Million Dollar Man of the WWF).

Bliss turns into the ultimate excuse maker when asked about just who got screwed by the McMahons. Bliss emailed the Courant to answer questions for the May piece. (Bliss’ m.o. is to email when in trouble, but available to speak personally to news media when on the attack.) “The complete bankruptcy records from more than three-and-a-half decades ago simply do not exist,” Bliss wrote. This is the same guy who demands that Murphy release his personal financial information including mortgage documents, applications, and any pictures of SpongeBob SquarePants his son may have drawn.

So we were expected to believe that the campaign was unable to produce the McMahon bankruptcy documents, but the Day of New London managed to locate them and reports that the couple walked away from nearly $1 million in debts by filing bankruptcy in 1976.

Once million of dollars have been spent in defining Murphy as a deadbeat, Bliss enlisted the news media and blogosphere. He filed an ethics complaint against Murphy while saying he was unhappy with the way the story was being reported. Both assertions are complete nonsense. The McMahon campaign knows the complaint is meritless, and — more importantly — that it won’t be adjudicated until after the election. Bliss succeeds in raising the question.

Complicit in the ultimate double standard is political writer and Courant columnist Kevin Rennie. Rennie has ridiculed Murphy’s financial struggles by urging readers to set up a “Murphy Missed Mortgage Payment Pool,” sarcastically asking readers to buy squares in a Super Bowl-like graph. Where is the “McMahon Missed Mortgage Payment Pool,” the “How Many People Were Left S.O.L. by the McMahon Bankruptcy Pool,” or the “How Long did It Take to Pay Back the Loan Shark Pool?”

Earlier this week, CTCapitolReport, by far the most widely read aggregation website for Connecticut political news, carried no less than a dozen headline links to stories connected to Murphy’s finances. And that was above the masthead. A media bias in favor of Murphy? Brilliant, Mr. Bliss. Brilliant!

The takeaways from all of this are: 1) For the McMahons, personal financial disasters including bankruptcy and the use of a loan shark are to be celebrated, because in the end, they wound up as gazillionaires no matter how they did it; 2) For Murphy, cleaning up his financial problems before they led anywhere near bankruptcy or foreclosure disqualifies him being a U.S. Senator; 3) When the McMahon campaign has serious exposure on an issue, they attack Murphy on exactly that issue, thereby blunting any criticism of McMahon or even any serious inquiries from a media pool lapping up anything Bliss dishes out, and; 4) Sadly, those with the most trinkets and the capability to back up a dump truck full of cash still set the agenda.

Part of the brilliance of the McMahon juggernaut against Murphy is that it distracts from the fact that she won’t grant extensive, unscripted interviews. She doesn’t put herself in a position to make mistakes. (Remember her attempt to answer a simple, impromptu question about the minimum wage during her $60 million failed campaign in 2010?) She is as handled a candidate as there has ever been.

The good people of the great state of Connecticut are smart enough to see through the smoke screen the McMahon campaign has dispersed like those at a wrestling show before a “star” enters the ring. Where does she stand on foreign policy? We do know she doesn’t agree with Romney’s latest foot-in-mouth despite her previous comments to Ch. 8. On the Romney-Ryan budget approach? On abortion rights? On Obamacare? On equal pay? On regulation of Wall Street? Murphy has a record with which voters can agree or disagree. McMahon has a boatload of money, a cutthroat campaign, and no answers. She owes the voters some substance. Anything less is dishonest.

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