McMahon Rains Money On Fair Haven

Linda McMahon, who’s considering another high-octane run for office, reappeared in the heart of New Haven’s Latino community to meet some kids—and to give back some money that the feds took away.

McMahon, cofounder of the World Wrestling Entertainment empire, made an appearance on drizzly Wednesday afternoon at Centro San Jose, a community center run by Catholic Charities at 290 Grand Ave.

It was a familiar stomping ground for the Greenwich Republican: The center lies along the same stretch of Fair Haven where McMahon found some fans last fall, though not enough to topple her opponent in the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Dick Blumenthal.

Back on Grand Avenue without a campaign team, McMahon was asked Wednesday if she plans to run for office again. She’s been publicly toying with a quest for next year’s nomination for Connecticut’s other U.S. Senate, from which Joe Lieberman is retiring.

“I’ve not made a definite decision, but I’m certainly considering it,” McMahon reiterated Wednesday.

When McMahon returned to Grand Avenue, she showed up alone, without any handlers or trackers. She came as a low-key philanthropist and as a children’s storyteller promoting the Week of the Young Child.

McMahon donated $68,000 to Centro San Jose to support a youth program that’s set to suffer from federal cutbacks. The money came from the Linda and Vince McMahon Family Foundation, which was created in 2007. The foundation gave out $1.5 million in grants in 2009, according to the latest tax filing.

The grant will support the center’s after-school program and summer camp, which together serve about 100 teenagers per year, according to staff. Centro San Jose is one of many social service agencies bracing for cuts in federal Community Development Block Grants this year. Aldermen are still waiting on word from the feds before deciding how to divvy up the money. As of now, Centro San Jose expects to lose at least $7,000 from that funding source.

Looming federal cuts would have forced the center to cut back the hours for the teen program, according to Tiffany Murasso, the director of early childhood programs for Catholic Charities. She said McMahon’s foundation came through at just the right time.

“This grant really saved the program,” Murasso said.

In an interview, McMahon said Centro San Jose fits her foundation’s goal of helping “children at risk.” And, she added, the timing was right.

“I do know that it’s very difficult, in these particular times, to get funding,” McMahon said.

McMahon said her foundation usually keeps the donations anonymous. She put out no press release for the event. She confirmed the donation only when asked by a reporter.

“Is That John Cena?”

In a show of appreciation, teens from the center regaled her with foam hearts.

Jazmine Ribot handed her 8-month-old baby to McMahon for a photo op. She’s pictured at right with Yazmin Jones, decorating the hearts.

Yazmin, who’s 16, said she’s attending Centro San Jose for the third year in a row. Every day after school, she walks half an hour from her Clinton Avenue home to get there.

“I love it here,” she said. “You meet a lot of people.”

Yazmin is one of 15 teens who show up to the center every weekday. When she arrives, she knows the routine: “Homework first,” then a snack and an activity. Some days, she learns about mediation or safe sex. On other days, she takes a field trip to a park.

Yazmin said her fellow teens were upset to learn of the looming cuts.

“We was crying, like, ‘No! Don’t shut it down!’” She said the teens offered to run a bake sale or a car wash to keep the program going.

“Thankfully we got the grant, so we don’t have to do all that stuff,” she said. 

After thanking McMahon, staff led her to the rear of the building for the next event: A meet-and-greet with 19 squirming pre-schoolers. The kids, ages 3 to 5, are part of a school readiness program funded by the state and local school district.

The purpose of McMahon’s appearance was to promote the importance of reading, in honor of the Week of the Young Child.

“Is this the reading chair?” McMahon asked her pupils, sitting down on a corner of a storytelling mat.

As she sat down, she spotted a fan in the crowd: In anticipation of her visit, one little boy had put on a black “WWF RAW” T-shirt sporting several wrestling characters.

“Is that John Cena?” McMahon asked.

“Si,” nodded the boy. “Lucha libre!”

Introductions complete, McMahon opened up a copy of “Whoever You Are” by Mem Fox and started reading aloud.

She paused to grin at curious comments—“We don’t have monkeys in our heads!”—and to ask the students questions, such as, “Does anybody here speak French?”

Click on the play arrow at the top of the story to watch their exchange.

McMahon later said she gained her teaching certification at East Carolina University, where she majored in French. She said she did some student teaching in college, but after graduation, she gave up teaching and pursued another life path. She said she gained the most experience on the reading mat with her two children and her six grandkids, who now range from 6 months to 7 years old.

Castro Pops Questions

After story time ended, students tugged at McMahon’s arm and led her on a tour of their classroom, which was decked out with spaceships and astronauts. When one boy asked her to tie his shoe, she bent down and obliged.

On her way out of the classroom, McMahon got another request. This one came from Fair Haven Alderwoman Migdalia Castro, a former Centro San Jose outreach worker who now represents Fair Haven.

“I’m very thankful for your support for Centro San Jose,” Castro began. “It means a lot to the community.”

Castro bode her time, then later popped a question.

“I don’t know if you’re planning to run for office,” Castro said, but if so, “would you support the Community Development Block Grants” that mean so much to Centro San Jose? Democrats have fought to restore the money, which was cut by President Obama.

McMahon didn’t quite answer the question. She said one way to supplement federal cutbacks is through local and private donations—donations like hers. She said while her foundation historically hasn’t publicized its donations, “hopefully this will encourage others to contribute.”

Castro asked her a second time if she’d support CDBG.

“I want to be as supportive as possible,” McMahon replied, but she declined to commit to support government funding for a specific program.

Castro, a Democrat, was asked if she would support Republican McMahon in a campaign. Castro said she couldn’t answer that question without first gauging the will of her community. She suggested the visit may be looked on favorably.

“Fair Haven is very open to guests that come in here,” she said, but when it comes to elections, “people really look at what you have done for the neighborhood. For Linda to come here and make that investment—it’s a plus for her.”

Castro said she supported Blumenthal last election because he had a solid record of helping her constituents.

Until Wednesday, Castro had seen McMahon only as a candidate from a different party running against her longtime ally.

“This is an opportunity to get to meet someone in a different light,” she said.


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posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on April 14, 2011  9:53am

Linda, you couldn’t buy my vote the first time, and you won’t buy my vote a second time either. ...

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on April 14, 2011  10:00am

McMahon donated $68,000 to Centro San Jose to support a youth program that’s set to suffer from federal cutbacks. The money came from the Linda and Vince McMahon Family Foundation, which was created in 2007.

I wonder did she take care of this.

posted by: What? on April 14, 2011  10:32am

Isn’t this the same Castro that demanded Goldson resignation for supporting McMahon? posted by: Alderwoman Castro on October 1, 2010 4:13pm (
“I think he should just resign as an alderman. If he cannot stand for the views of his constituents, and how it’s going to affect their lives, then he should resign. Having Linda McMahon to win—all that she stands for is corporate and rich. Not for the middle class and poor. It’s time for him to really say goodbye. I cannot see him as a colleague who really stands for the poor people of New Haven. People are struggling and really hurting. This lady, you think she’s going to cut to the rich? No, she’s going to cut more to the needy and social security and medicaid—all the things that we stand for. This is a disgrace.”

posted by: George on April 14, 2011  10:39am

This article reveals exactly why Linda McMahon should be elected to the U.S. Senate.  Linda is NOT a politician who panders to special interests by promising future government support (funded by debt and/or taxes).  Such behavior by a generation of career politicians has bought votes and brought this nation to the brink of insolvency. 

Linda should be congratulated for supporting the program with private funds, and for NOT buying votes with public money funded via taxes or debt.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on April 14, 2011  10:43am

Maybe fat cats like Linda McMahon would give even more of their money away to charitable causes,—if their federal taxes weren’t so incredibly low.

Right now the McMahons are taking $60 million/year out of WWE, but as purely dividends and not as salary. This means they pay just 15% to Uncle Sam, instead of the 35% one would normally expect.

Yet she’s running as a Republican with the goal of lowering taxes on the rich even further? What a selfish woman!

posted by: anne on April 14, 2011  11:31am

my thoughts exactly. i’m sure that all the wonderful folks at centro san jose are thrilled to get the monetary help, but they and their clients don’t have to vote for linda mcmahon in any future elections. she is still not qualified to represent us and she does not share our values!

posted by: streever on April 14, 2011  12:11pm


I was at a dinner last night (of non-profits) where several local non-profit directors talked about how much cheaper they can provide services than the State.

I was curious about this (because really, regional & state-wide organizations should be much more efficient).

I asked, “How much more does it cost the state to do your job, on a case-by-case basis?”
Non profit leader: “Four times as much, roughly.”
Me: “Why is it so much cheaper?”
Them: “We pay our staff much less. When I looked at adjusting their salary to meet industry average, it would cost us more than it costs the state organizations.”

The fallacy that the government should not provide services to our poorest and most disadvantaged because “non-profits do it cheaper” is exactly that—a fallacy. Non-profits only manage by paying their employees drastically less than a living wage, which is a huge part of the problem they are trying to fix.

If our economy was robust and corporations weren’t obsessed with providing bigger annual returns every year to board members, we’d see real living wages paid across the board, raising the level of competition in jobs, and allowing many non-profits to declare “mission complete” before choosing to shut-down.

Non-profits are a solution to a serious societal problem—the failure of our citizens to support each other and make smart decisions.

Republicans do not create jobs and grow the economy. Comprehensive financial analysis has been conducted, examining and investigating economic growth under Republicans versus Democrats, going back to the 70s. The studies have found that the economy grows under Democrats and not under Republicans.

How could it grow under Republicans? They cut services for the poor and ill, requiring citizens to work for little money to help these individuals, and give tax breaks to companies and the rich, out of a misguided theory that this will “create jobs”.

Jobs are created by business need because customers have money and are buying goods and services. No successful company on earth hires staff because they have spare cash. This just is not the case. Companies hire staff to meet business needs.

It is truly discouraging to see how successful the republicans have been at pulling the wool over everyones eyes.

posted by: lance on April 14, 2011  12:17pm

what are “your values” Anne?

I take it you voted for the guy who PRETENDED to have served in Vietnam?

posted by: Mike on April 14, 2011  2:07pm

No handlers, no trackers but a press release?  Convenient.

posted by: ignornanceisbliss on April 14, 2011  2:28pm

McMahon is offering crumbs from the master’s table.

posted by: Morris Cove Mom on April 14, 2011  2:55pm

Maybe she could run for mayor of New Haven, then fill all the budgets cuts and gaps with her own money, and not raise my property or car taxes any more.  Even I’d vote for that.

posted by: Alderwoman Migdalia Castro on April 14, 2011  3:03pm

To What? I was an invited guess to this event. Centro San Jose is not only in the ward I represent but in my hearth! And for your peace of mind I didn’t partcipate in any of talks or transaction for this grant. Iam happy to know that it will help after schools and summer programs for the youth.

posted by: Non-Profit Person on April 15, 2011  2:15pm

To Streever:

Here, here! As an employee of a non-profit, I have the benefit of feeling that what I do makes a difference in the lives of people I have come to care about deeply and a subset of our population that is often overlooked. It appeals to my sense of idealism, goodness, and kindness…of being the change I’d like to see in the world. That said, many of us in the non-profit sector barely make enough to make ends meet, despite the level of education attained to do what we do, all of the effort we put in to caring for others, etc. It can be very disheartening and discouraging. It seems the only people whose salaries increase predictably in many non-profits, including my own, are the upper echelon, while those of us who actually do the day-to-day work in the trenches and bring in the money to provide services are overlooked. Thank you for recognizing the “little guys.”

posted by: Pauldz on April 15, 2011  3:27pm

You hate filled people! It would help to check your facts before spewing your venom towards Linda McMahon.  The FACTS for those of you who can’t read are: (1)the reporter stated Linda did NOT issue a press release about this visit and (2) Linda confirmed the donation only AFTER being asked about it by the reporter.  I know your progressives only believe in the government as the answer to all of your problems, but in fact the generosity of people like Linda McMahon is what makes this country great, not sitting around whining to the government that you are entitled to other people’s money, being bitter about others who have a better education or are willing to work harder for their success…  As to all the harm republicans would do to the people of Connecticut, all I know is that the Dems have had a veto-proof majority in the legislature for years, they are lackey’s for the public unions that are sucking the lifeblood out of this state’s economy, and we now have a Democratic governor that is proposing the largest tax increase since Lowell Weicker. Freud said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  You all vote the democratic line every election, and look at our state’s finances - we’re broke people.  You get the government you deserve.

posted by: maurao on April 16, 2011  9:38am

People contribute to good causes everyday- they do not look for accolades or publicity- they do it because they believe it is the right thing to do- to share and tithe
Most people who give, deny themselves something to send out that check.
A happy moment that the center got these funds, but the giver’s motivation goes beyond simply helping.

posted by: Pauldz on April 16, 2011  1:26pm

To maurao:  We don’t know Linda’s motivation for making this donation ..., but we can reasonably conclude that it was partly altruistic, and perhaps some political calculation involved.  Again we don’t know that.  It’s interesting in that Linda’s people didn’t release information about this event, yet this reporter knew to be there.  Maybe the center alerted the media so that a story would be written about their plight. But either way, it still doesn’t justify the bile and venom that people left in their comments above. Linda got some goodwill out of this, but I doubt any meaningful number of votes.  Once the democratic machine kicks in during the campaign with their lies and distortions, this event will be long forgotten - except maybe by the kids.

posted by: Joe on April 18, 2011  8:15am

... and WWE.  Even with all the reality show nonsense, jersey shore, etc.. WWE takes the cake in being the trashiest, filthiest, propaganda machine on television.