Linda McMahon Backed Revamp of SBA, Which She Has Been Picked to Lead


Linda McMahon Backed Revamp of SBA, Which She Has Been Picked to Lead

President-elect Donald Trump's choice to run the agency, supported the Obama administration's plan to merge it

By Ruth Simon and Ted Mann
The Wall Street Journal
December 12, 2016

Linda McMahon,President-elect Donald Trump's pick to run the U.S. Small BusinessAdministration, once supported a plan that could have eliminated the cabinet seatshe is now slated to hold.

Ms. McMahon, aco-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., twice unsuccessfully ran fora Senate seat in her home state of Connecticut. As part of her 2012 campaign,her economic plan called for getting rid of "outdated/ineffective andduplicative programs," and expressed support for a 2012 proposal by PresidentBarack Obama to mergethe SBA, theCommerce Department's core functions andfour other entities into one unit.

A spokeswomanfor Ms. McMahon, 68 years old, declined to comment on any issues related to theSBA before confirmation hearings.

As head of theSBA, Ms. McMahon would oversee an agency with a budget of more than $10 billionthat last year approved more than 70,000 government-backed private-sector loans.The SBA also provides mentoring and counseling, and oversees federaldisaster-relief programs.

Ms. McMahon andher husband, Vince, bought his ailing father's wrestling business in 1982 andtook the company public in 1999. The WWE, which had $659 million in revenuelast year, grew by developing a cast of larger-than-life chiseled villains andheroes who seemed drawn from comic books.

Since steppingdown as chief executive in 2009, Ms. McMahon has turned her attention topolitics and to promoting women's leadership and entrepreneurship. The couplestill own a controlling stake in WWE, where Mr. McMahon serves as chairman andCEO.

Ms. McMahoninitially supported New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's Republican presidentialbid, 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 tofederal election records.

The McMahonsalso were large donors to the Trump Foundation, according to tax records.

In announcingthe nomination on Wednesday, Mr. Trump called Ms. McMahon "one of thecountry's top female executives advising businesses around the globe. Shehelped expand WWE from a modest 13-person operation to a publicly traded globalenterprise with more than 800 employees in offices world-wide."

Ms. McMahon rantwo of the most expensive U.S. Senate campaigns in American history. She spentabout $100 million combined, mostly from her personal fortune, but lost toConnecticut's longtime attorney general Richard Blumenthalin 2010 and then-Rep. Chris Murphy in 2012, bothDemocrats.

In her 2012campaign, Ms. McMahon pitched herself as a job creator and called forreductions in federal spending. "If a program is effective and needed it willcontinue; but if it is not, it should be revised or canceled," according to hercampaign literature.

PresidentObama's proposal to combine the SBA with other entities "really never gainedtraction," said Tony Wilkinson, president of theNational Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders. "I think there was aconcern that it would get buried in the Department of Commerce and thatsmall-business issues needed their own agency," he said.

The trade group, which represents lenders who make SBA-backed loans, is lookingforward to working with Ms. McMahon, Mr. Wilkinson said.

Ms. McMahon hascalled for reducing financial regulation, stating that Dodd-Frank financialreform "has significantly increased the costs and reduced the viability ofsmall, community banks upon which Connecticut's small businesses rely forbusiness loans."

Moreover, herplatform included cutting the top business tax rate to 25% from 35%, allowingbusinesses to deduct 100% of capital expenses.

In addition toher political activities, Ms. McMahon has focused on moving women intoleadership positions, an area some familiar with her work believe will be apriority at the SBA.

Ms. McMahon isthe co-founder and chief executive of Women's Leadership Live, a two-year-oldstartup that focuses on leadership opportunities for women. Sessions for aconference held in Salt Lake City in October included "Thrive ThroughDisruption" and "Owning Your Impossible and Learning to Fly," plus a "SharkTank"-like business pitch competition.

"Linda hasalways been a supporter of women business owners and entrepreneurs in Connecticut,"said Fran Pastore, chief executive of the Women'sBusiness Development Council in Stamford, Conn., which has received fundingfrom Ms. McMahon. "I am anxious to see how she will grow the SBA and thatparticularly."

Ms. McMahonalso was a major donor to the Women's Business Development Council in Stamford,Conn., which provides training and education to business owners, and hosts twoSBA programs aimed at women business owners.

Ms. McMahon'sbusiness record became an issue in both of her Senate campaigns. After acomplete list of her creditors from a 1976 bankruptcy filing was published in alocal 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 duringthat year's Senate race. Opponents, including Democrats and labor unions,accused her of being out of touch with workers.

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