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DOJ Threatens WWE

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Filed: Timeline

Dept. of Justice warns WWE about its election-day giveaway; company says it won't hand out merchandise in the face of "ambiguous legal threat"


Vince McMahon's election day stunt to hand out company-themed merchandise at the polls tomorrow has drawn a sternly worded letter from the U.S. Department of Justice warning that the giveaway may be in violation of federal election law.

"[T]his letter is to advise you that WWE might be operating in ignorance of applicable federal criminal law and to notify you of that law,'' states the Nov. 1 letter, signed by Richard C. Pilger, director of the DOJ's election crimes branch.

Citing section 1973i© of Title 42 of the United States Code, the Justice Department says its a federal offense "to pay or offer to pay an individual a thing of value for voting.''

Vince McMahon announced last week that the company was planning to hand out WWE-themed merchandise at select polling places around the state.

"This is clearly heavy-handed bullying from big government and would appear to be desperate political activity in closely contested elections in Connecticut," said McMahon, chairman and CEO of the company. "This is consistent with some Attorney Generals' tactics that threaten litigation for political gain."

It's the latest chapter in a drawn-out drama about WWE-themed gear at polling places. It started when a spokesman for Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz indicated that such clothing may violate state law designed to prevent politicking at polling places. That's because Linda McMahon, the former CEO of WWE and wife of Vince McMahon, is on the ballot.

Bysiewicz never instituted a formally policy banning WWE paraphernalia; her spokesman said it would be left to the discretion of local poll workers to determine if the clothing constituted a violation of the law.

But Vince McMahon sued in federal court, arguing that any ban on WWE clothing at the polls abridged the right to free expression. Last week, U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton agreed, saying that the prohibition against political apparel within 75 feet of a polling place does not apply to wrestling apparel.

The election day giveaway was planned to "celebrate the victory of restoring voters' rights,'' the company said in a press release. "WWE had planned to give away WWE merchandise at select polls to anyone regardless of political affiliation or whether they intended to vote."

The company notes the "ambiguous threat of legal action" conveyed in the Justice Department's letter came "not so coincidently after President Obama's visit to Connecticut this past weekend and on the eve of the midterm elections.''


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Filed: AOS (pnd) Country: Canada


The Great Canadian to Texas Transfer Timeline:

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