Linda McMahon, Trump donor and Cabinet member, to head pro-Trump super PAC

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Linda McMahon, currently the head of the Small Business Administration (SBA), is resigning from her position on April 12 to become the chair of America First Action, one of the primary pro-Trump super PACs. McMahon and her husband Vince, owner and CEO of the WWE and founder of the XFL football league, have a history as friends and financial supporters of Donald Trump, who is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.

McMahon helped found and lead the WWE with her husband where she served as CEO. She was confirmed to lead the SBA by an 81-19 margin in 2017.  

McMahon was a significant financial supporter of Trump’s campaign in 2016. She contributed a total of $7.2 million to two pro-Trump super PACs, Rebuilding America Now, for which she was the top donor, and Future45. Overall, the McMahons were the 20th largest donor to outside groups in the 2016 cycle, spending a total of more than $10 million.

The McMahons had previously supported Trump through his foundation. In fact, they were reportedly among the Trump Foundation’s biggest donors, contributing $5 million to the organization in 2007.

Since the 1990 cycle, the McMahons made more than $15.1 million in political contributions, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. While the spending has skewed significantly conservative, McMahon has contributed $39,100 to Democrats. In the mid-2000s, she supported Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel and groups like the DCCC.

Recently, in the 2018 cycle, McMahon contributed $5,400 to Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and $2,700 to Harry Arora, the Republican candidate for Connecticut’s 4th District — the home district of the McMahons and the WWE headquarters.

McMahon was the Republican Party’s nominee for Senate in Connecticut in both 2010 and 2012. She significantly outraised her opponents, stemming from the fact she self-funded both efforts, dropping $50.1 million on her campaign in 2010 and around $48.7 million in 2012. By comparison, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) only raised $8.7 million in 2010 and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) around $10.5 million in 2012. Even with the massive money advantage, McMahon lost both races by a significant margin in traditionally blue Connecticut.  

As a candidate, McMahon spoke out against money-in-politics in a way that mirrored Trump in 2016 and much of the current 2020 Democratic presidential field. In her 2010 campaign, she capped individual contributions at $100 and swore off PAC contributions. Her second attempt in 2012 also included essentially no contributions from PACs.

One of McMahon’s donors in the 2012 cycle was none other than Donald Trump, who contributed $5,000 to her candidacy.

America First Action, the super PAC that McMahon will command, is affiliated with America First Policies, a “dark money” 501(c)(4) nonprofit that was founded by Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, Rick Gates, who plead guilty to federal charges brought by the Mueller investigation, and a few other Trump team members. The America First groups, along with Rebuilding America Now which McMahon contributed to heavily, were wrapped up in an alleged illegal coordination controversy with the NRA.

In the 2018 election cycle, the first that America First Action was active, it raised $39 million and spent around $29.3 of that on independent expenditures. The super PAC was boosted in the 2018 cycle by a combined $10 million contribution from megadonor couple Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.

Before McMahon was tapped to lead the super PAC, other Trump insiders like Nick Ayers, Kellyanne Conway and Kelly Craft had allegedly been considered to fill the role. Trump officials set high expectations for the super PAC in 2020, hoping to raise $300 to $400 million.   

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