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McMahon Ranks 4th Among Self-Funding Candidates

Only three Congressional candidates in history have donated more personal money to their campaigns than Connecticut Senate hopeful Linda McMahon — and she’s hardly done spending yet.

The former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment just exceeded the $22 million mark, making her No. 4 on the all-time list of Congressional self-funders, according to an analysis of campaign finance data by Roll Call.

McMahon is favored to win the Aug. 10 GOP primary, and it’s highly likely that she’ll move further up the list by the time voters head to the polls in November.

While it has been reported that McMahon is willing to spend as much as $50 million of her personal fortune, spokesman Ed Patru said the campaign has no intention of broadcasting its spending strategy.

“She’ll invest what it takes to win,” Patru said. “And it’s important to remember that she’s not taking a penny of special-interest money. She’s funding this herself because she does not want her independence compromised.”

The list of self-funders is topped by former New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine (D), a finance executive who contributed more than $60.2 million to his successful 2000 Senate campaign.

He is followed by Blair Hull, an Illinois Democrat who dipped into his pocket to spend more than $28.7 million (including personal contributions and loans) in the 2004 Senate race. Hull didn’t make it out of the primary, taking third place with 11 percent of the vote in a contest won by then-state Sen. Barack Obama.

No. 3 on the list is Michael Huffington, a natural gas magnate, and unsuccessful candidate for Senate in 1994. Huffington, former husband of Arianna Huffington, spent $28.3 million on the bid, but narrowly lost to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

McMahon comes in next at No. 4, and not surprisingly her spending has become a campaign issue.

“People want an election, they don’t want an auction,” said Maura Downes, spokeswoman for McMahon’s likely general election opponent, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. “We are going to be outspent, but we’re not going to be outworked.”

The McMahon campaign, however, suggests that Blumenthal’s criticism are hypocritical; Patru cited a $250,000 personal contribution Blumenthal made to his state attorney general campaign in 1990.

“Dick Blumenthal is a career politician and he does what politicians routinely do: Says one thing and does another. His misleading statements and his hypocrisy are what are creating credibility problems for him.”

Blumenthal’s spokeswoman laughed off the jab. “It was a long time ago. And there’s a big difference between $250,000 and 50 million,” Downes said.

The rest of the top 10 self-funders in Congressional campaigns are:

5. Ned Lamont (D): He spent $17 million in the 2006 Connecticut Senate race, when he defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary. Lieberman, however, switched parties and ran as an Independent, and then beat Lamont in November.

6. Peter Fitzgerald (R): The banking executive spent $14.6 million on his successful 1998 campaign against then-Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (Ill.). He chose to retire instead of seek re-election six years later.

7. Rep. Darrell Issa (R): Then a California business executive, who is now one of the most wealthy Members of Congress, Issa spent $13 million from his own pocket in a failed run for the Senate in 1998. Two years later, Issa won a seat in Congress in a race where he lent his campaign $3.1 million.

8. Pete Rickets (R): The former chief operating officer of Ameritrade, Rickets spent $12 million in an unsuccessful quest to defeat Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson in 2006.

9. Mark Dayton (D): The heir to the Dayton Hudson Department Store fortune (which is now Target Corporation) spent $11.7 million to win a Minnesota Senate seat in 2000. He did not seek re-election in 2006 and this year he is seeking the Democratic nod for governor.

10. Jim Pederson (D): The businessman spent $10.9 million in a losing bid to oust Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) in 2006.

Alex Knott contributed to this report.

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