Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Deems WWE ‘Essential Business’ Same Day Linda McMahon’s Super PAC Makes $26M Ad Buy
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is coming under fire for a decision to deem World Wrestling Entertainment an “essential business” in the state, allowing it to stay open while other non-essential businesses have closed during the coronavirus outbreak.
The timing of that decision — coming the same day that WWE president and CEO Linda McMahon’s pro-Trump super PAC announced a $26.6 million investment in broadcast television ads in North Carolina and Florida — has now come under scrutiny as well.
As ABC News reported, the decision to permit the professional wrestling company to continue filming live broadcast events from its training facility in Orlando has come under scrutiny, especially after DeSantis gave a statewide “shelter-in-place” order back on April 3 and ordered other non-essential businesses to close. The WWE was not initially designated as essential business, but DeSantis reversed the decision after what was reported to be “some conversation” with WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon.
As the report noted, both DeSantis and the WWE have close ties to Donald Trump, with Linda McMahon having served as administrator for Trump’s Small Business Association and now chairing a pro-Trump Super PAC called America First Action.
ABC News reported that DeSantis sent a memo on April 9 noting that essential workers in the state would now include employees at a professional sports league and media production, only if the location used was closed to the public. The announcement came the same day as the major investment from Linda McMahon’s political organization, the report added.
DeSantis’ office did not respond to requests from ABC News about whether there was a connection between the super PAC spending and the decision to allow the WWE to keep operating as an “essential business,” but many critics have raised questions about the timing.
“Can somebody check ties between DeSantis and Linda McMahon,” tweeted Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute.
“Contributions from her and her husband, etc. There is an explanation for this bizarre decision and most likely it involves$$$$$”
Others believed that the decision to allow the WWE to continue operating was something of a gift to a major backer of Donald Trump.
“WWE co-founder Linda McMahon is a former Trump cabinet member and chair of a current pro-Trump superPAC.” tweeted Noah Bookbinder, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
“Florida Gov. DeSantis, a close ally of the President, just deemed professional wrestling an essential business, likely saving the WWE many millions.”