- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Connecticut ring

Republican Senate primary candidate and former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon is getting slammed by disgruntled celebrity wrestlers who don’t feel like they got enough benefits from the organization and by social conservatives displeased with some of WWE’s sexy content.

Former wrestlers such as Jesse Ventura and “Superstar” Billy Graham have been busy bashing their former employer in the media. They’re decrying the WWE’s lack of unionization and health benefits for its stars, who are classified as independent contractors.

Mr. Ventura, the former independent governor of Minnesota, complained about Mrs. McMahon on an ESPN radio show by calling the WWE “a joke” and questioning his WWE contractor classification. “How can you be an independent contractor when you’re told when to wrestle, who to wrestle and you can’t wrestle for another promotion?” he said.

Mr. Graham is organizing other wrestlers against Mrs. McMahon and plans to campaign on behalf of Mrs. McMahon’s Connecticut primary opponent, Rob Simmons, who co-sponsored the Employee Free Choice Act as a member of Congress.

Of course, those wrestlers were paid an above-average salary as independent contractors, although they didn’t receive health care benefits from the WWE.

A WWE spokesman dismissed those complaints, telling The Washington Times that “the average talent on World Wrestling Entertainment’s programs is paid hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

“These complaints about health insurance, made by old-timers and other disgruntled former talent, mirror the allegations recently made in a lawsuit against WWE challenging the practice and their status as independent contractors. That lawsuit was dismissed by a distinguished federal judge and there is, therefore, nothing really to address on that meritless issue.”

Some of the WWE’s steamy stars also are being debated. WWE signed porn actresses, such as Jillian Beyor and Candice Michelle, under Mrs. McMahon’s tenure and featured other “divas” like Torrie Wilson in sexy WWE scenarios. During one match, available on YouTube, Miss Wilson strips off her skimpy bikini to reveal an even skimpier, nude-toned bikini and caresses and kisses another female wrestler, Sable.

“It’s not family entertainment, as they like to say,” said Tom McClusky, senior vice president of Family Research Council Action, of WWE’s content. “It’s family entertainment as much as Hooters is a restaurant.”

For its part, the McMahon campaign is downplaying complaints about WWE’s raciness.

“WWE’s programming is fictional entertainment,” McMahon spokesman Ed Patru said. “Voters are capable of separating that from reality, and they are gravitating toward Linda because she’s a political outsider and increasingly they see no difference between Rob Simmons and Chris Dodd - neither of them has created real jobs and both will say anything or take any position to stay in public office.”

‘Tea party’ poser?

Speaking of the Connecticut primary, past positions may come back to haunt Rob Simmons in the Republican primary against Linda McMahon.

Mr. Simmons has modeled himself as a movement conservative, even brandishing tea bags and a copy of his pocket Constitution during stump speeches, but his voting record as a member of Congress will give the ‘tea party’ crowd pause.

As a member of Congress, Mr. Simmons was a co-sponsor of the House’s “cap and trade” bill and the Employee Free Choice Act, called “card check” by its opponents. These two pieces of legislation are vehemently opposed by the free-marketeers who drive the tea party movement.

But now, Mr. Simmons says he was wrong to co-sponsor the Democratic bills. He wrote a blog in October saying he would oppose them as a U.S. senator.

“I did a lot of listening, and concluded that I was wrong about two issues I supported in Congress - the Employee Free Choice Act (also known as ‘card check’) and ‘cap and trade,’ ” he wrote on his campaign Web site. “After hearing more from the people who would be most affected by these bills, I became convinced they would cause more harm than good, and I would oppose them in the Senate.”

The Simmons campaign did not return an e-mail for comment about his prior support of the EFCA and cap and trade.

Polling time

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which landed in hot water for endorsing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist for 2010 over former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, hasn’t endorsed anyone in the Connecticut race, but has got to be pleased with the polling so far.

A Nov. 13 Quinnipiac poll gave the lead in the general election race to Republican primary contender Rob Simmons, putting him over incumbent Democratic Sen. Christopher J. Dodd 49 percent to 38 percent. Former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, Mr. Simmons’ primary rival, also fared well against Mr. Dodd in a head-to-head matchup, beating him 43 percent to 41 percent.

Republican prospects look good against another powerful Democrat as well. A December poll conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal by Mason-Dixon showed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, trailing both of his potential Republican challengers.

Former chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Party and gaming executive Sue Lowden beat Mr. Reid 51 percent to 41 percent in the Mason Dixon poll, while Republican lawyer Danny Tarkanian fared almost as well against Mr. Reid.

Mr. Tarkanian, a former basketball standout at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and son of legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian, also beat Mr. Reid, 48 percent to 42 percent.

The NRSC had not endorsed a Republican in the Nevada race.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@ washingtontimes.com.

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