President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to run the U.S. Small Business
Administration, once supported a plan that could have eliminated the cabinet seat
she is now slated to hold.
Ms. McMahon, a
co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., twice unsuccessfully ran for
a Senate seat in her home state of Connecticut. As part of her 2012 campaign,
her economic plan called for getting rid of “outdated/ineffective and
duplicative programs,” and expressed support for a 2012 proposal by President
Barack Obama to merge
the SBA, the
Commerce Department’s core functions and
four other entities into one unit.
for Ms. McMahon, 68 years old, declined to comment on any issues related to the
SBA before confirmation hearings.
As head of the
SBA, Ms. McMahon would oversee an agency with a budget of more than $10 billion
that last year approved more than 70,000 government-backed private-sector loans.
The SBA also provides mentoring and counseling, and oversees federal
Ms. McMahon and
her husband, Vince, bought his ailing father’s wrestling business in 1982 and
took the company public in 1999. The WWE, which had $659 million in revenue
last year, grew by developing a cast of larger-than-life chiseled villains and
heroes who seemed drawn from comic books.
down as chief executive in 2009, Ms. McMahon has turned her attention to
politics and to promoting women’s leadership and entrepreneurship. The couple
still own a controlling stake in WWE, where Mr. McMahon serves as chairman and
initially supported New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s Republican presidential
bid, but gave $7 million to super PACs backing Mr. Trump late in the campaign,
including a $1 million donation a month before the election, according to
federal election records.
also were large donors to the Trump Foundation, according to tax records.
the nomination on Wednesday, Mr. Trump called Ms. McMahon “one of the
country’s top female executives advising businesses around the globe. She
helped expand WWE from a modest 13-person operation to a publicly traded global
enterprise with more than 800 employees in offices world-wide.”
Ms. McMahon ran
two of the most expensive U.S. Senate campaigns in American history. She spent
about $100 million combined, mostly from her personal fortune, but lost to
Connecticut’s longtime attorney general Richard Blumenthal
in 2010 and then-Rep. Chris Murphy in 2012, both
In her 2012
campaign, Ms. McMahon pitched herself as a job creator and called for
reductions in federal spending. “If a program is effective and needed it will
continue; but if it is not, it should be revised or canceled,” according to her
Obama’s proposal to combine the SBA with other entities “really never gained
traction,” said Tony Wilkinson, president of the
National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders. “I think there was a
concern that it would get buried in the Department of Commerce and that
small-business issues needed their own agency,” he said.
The trade group, which represents lenders who make SBA-backed loans, is looking
forward to working with Ms. McMahon, Mr. Wilkinson said.
Ms. McMahon has
called for reducing financial regulation, stating that Dodd-Frank financial
reform “has significantly increased the costs and reduced the viability of
small, community banks upon which Connecticut’s small businesses rely for
platform included cutting the top business tax rate to 25% from 35%, allowing
businesses to deduct 100% of capital expenses.
In addition to
her political activities, Ms. McMahon has focused on moving women into
leadership positions, an area some familiar with her work believe will be a
priority at the SBA.
Ms. McMahon is
the co-founder and chief executive of Women’s Leadership Live, a two-year-old
startup that focuses on leadership opportunities for women. Sessions for a
conference held in Salt Lake City in October included “Thrive Through
Disruption” and “Owning Your Impossible and Learning to Fly,” plus a “Shark
Tank”-like business pitch competition.
always been a supporter of women business owners and entrepreneurs in Connecticut,”
said Fran Pastore, chief executive of the Women’s
Business Development Council in Stamford, Conn., which has received funding
from Ms. McMahon. “I am anxious to see how she will grow the SBA and that
also was a major donor to the Women’s Business Development Council in Stamford,
Conn., which provides training and education to business owners, and hosts two
SBA programs aimed at women business owners.
business record became an issue in both of her Senate campaigns. After a
complete list of her creditors from a 1976 bankruptcy filing was published in a
local newspaper during her 2012 bid, she paid off the earlier debts.
In 2010, Ms.
McMahon bungled an answer about the minimum wage at a press conference during
that year’s Senate race. Opponents, including Democrats and labor unions,
accused her of being out of touch with workers.
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