by Irvin Muchnick
On September 23, Susanne Craig of the New York Times opened her mailbox to find an envelope, from an unidentified source, containing three pages of Donald Trumps 1995 tax returns. Their exposure of his nearly billion-dollar forwarded tax writeoff for claimed business losses that year is now at the center of coverage of the national nightmare that is Trumps near-miss, at best, in his race for the presidency of the United States.
On October 13, 2012, I opened the mailbox at my apartment in Berkeley, California, to find an envelope, from an unidentified source, containing a single sheet of paper I would soon upload to this link: http://muchnick.net/wweaudits.pdf. It was a document showing that WWE, the company of Vince McMahon and his wife Linda (who was then the Republican nominee in the U.S. Senate election in Connecticut), had settled a state tax dispute for $4.4 million.
The two incidents are obviously of different orders of importance. Though nearly as unfit for public office as Donald Trump, Linda McMahon was running for a lower office. Her campaign was strange, to be sure, and perhaps a harbinger of further lunacy in our national polity. But in retrospect it was also fairly familiar self-funded Republican woman CEO territory, similar to Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina.
There were, in fact, two carbon-copy bids by Linda M. for open Connecticut Senate seats, with déjà vu all over again outcomes. In 2010 she wiped the floor in the primary with a Republican establishment opponent, before losing resoundingly to Democrat Richard Blumenthal. In 2012 she wiped the floor in the primary with a Republican establishment opponent, before losing resoundingly to Democrat Chris Murphy. (And maybe that will be Trumps electoral bottom line, too. However, the lasting damage he has already done to our democracy far outstrips the interjection into Blumenthal-McMahon and Murphy-McMahon of all the salacious ways that losing candidate made her centimillions.)
Aside from its narcissistic rub for me, reviewing the McMahon tax story is pertinent in one other respect: Trump and the McMahons are old cronies. Two early editions of WrestleMania were staged at a Trump casino in Atlantic City, before he ran it into the ground as part of his $916 million negative ledger in 1995.
And more recently, the McMahons were the No. 1 donors to the fraudulent Donald J. Trump Foundation: a $4 million contribution in 2007, according to the reporting of David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post. This roughly coincided with the period in which Trump and Vince McMahon did the headline match at the 2008 WrestleMania, where McMahon had to get his head shaved after his surrogate lost to Trumps surrogate.
In the case of the 2012 tax leak to me — almost certainly from a disgruntled WWE employee or ex-employee — it was a corporate matter and I did not overplay it. For four years, WWE had deployed an envelope-pushing interpretation of broadcast tax credits — a sweetheart provision probably crafted for brethren Connecticut sports-trashing company ESPN. The $4.4 million figure represented, essentially, a splitting of the difference between WWEs lawyers and the states. (See the links below.)
I also did not overplay the significance of this item in assessing Linda McMahons fitness for the Senate, but the Connecticut media said it created a firestorm of criticism of her wealth and the abuses that gave rise to it. The ink-stained wretches of the Nutmeg State, whom I tended to criticize for being soft on McMahon, even opened an avenue of enterprise of which I had been unaware: investigation of the secondary market in corporate tax credits, broadcast or otherwise. This is a favorite toy of Hollywood types, and it is bipartisan.
Published October 17th, 2012
Published October 17th, 2012
Published October 18th, 2012
Published October 19th, 2012