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Esty was the only Connecticut Democrat to approve World Wrestling pork

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published June 19. 2013 4:00AM

I find it hard to understand how a Connecticut Democrat could vote to empower the Army National Guard to continue to spend $5 million in recruiting promotion money with World Wrestling Entertainment, the creation of failed U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon.

Hasn't everyone in Connecticut had enough of McMahon and her money-minting WWE?

How could you go to Washington and agree with sending $5 million in defense pork back to a company whose programming, endlessly dissected here during McMahon's two unsuccessful self-financed Senate campaigns, defines sleazy.

Actually, most of the Connecticut delegation had the good sense to vote against spending more National Guard money with WWE.

Only U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, the new congresswoman in the Fifth District, who is married to the state's chief energy commissioner, Daniel C. Esty, voted last week against an amendment to the defense bill that would have eliminated National Guard spending with WWE, NASCAR and the Indy Race League, now $53 million, including $5.1 million to WWE.

This smart amendment, introduced by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota, lost on a 290-134 vote in the Republican-controlled House.

It would have forced the National Guard to follow the example of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, which have all terminated NASCAR sponsorships.

"At a time of enormous federal budget deficits, endless borrowing from China, sequestration's harming military readiness, and deep cuts to services for vulnerable children, seniors and people with disabilities, the Army National Guard is spending over $53 million to have its logo highlighted at World Wrestling Entertainment events and to sponsor NASCAR and IndyCar racing," McCollum said in the debate on her amendment on the floor of the House.

And then, as if she had also lived through two long McMahon races here in Connecticut, as the wrestling impresario spent $100 million trying to score a Senate seat, McCollum added: "The fact that $53 million in taxpayer funds is going to sponsor some of the most violent and sexist entertainment on television and NASCAR racing teams that result in zero recruits is a waste of money and it should be stopped."

I checked in with Esty's office Tuesday, since she was the only Connecticut representative to vote to continue the WWE and NASCAR funding.

A spokesman for the congresswoman said in a statement that the amendment as drafted would not save money and that Esty did not want to hinder the ability of the National Guard to recruit and retain soldiers.

The amendment language would have prohibited payments for professional wrestling entertainment sponsorships or motor sports sponsorships, which now total $53 million, but did not include a specific amount.

"While Elizabeth understands the perspective of her colleagues who voted differently on the McCollum amendment, as an elected official and as someone whose 20-year-old niece is currently serving in Kabul, she is also sensitive to the recruiting needs of our all-volunteer military," the spokesman said in his statement. "Her vote was not about the WWE, and she's not a fan of the WWE."

I don't really care whether the congresswoman is a fan of WWE. I just wish she had joined other Connecticut Democrats in sending a message that, in these times of tight federal budgets, the spigot for lucrative federal sports sponsorships, like $29 million to a single NASCAR race driver, should stop.

This is the opinion of David Collins

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