(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- A federal judge has decided that wrestling fans in Connecticut can wear World Wrestling Entertainment T-shirts when they go to the polls, ruling that clothing depicting wrestlers' likenesses and the company logo would not be considered an endorsement of Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon, the WWE's former CEO.
U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton on Wednesday ruled that a state law that restricts political advertising within 75 feet of a polling place would not apply to voters wearing WWE clothing.
The lawsuit, brought by the WWE, highlights growing tensions between the multi-million-dollar company and Connecticut Democrats.
The WWE and McMahon's husband, company founder Vince McMahon, say the company has been unfairly maligned during the election, and they have launched a public relations campaign encouraging fans to contact reporters and write letters to the editor of publications attacking the WWE.
In turn, state Democrats accuse the WWE of running a shadow campaign – holding events, running a PR campaign and running stealth ads – and have filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for inappropriate interference in the election.
The WWE filed a suit last week against the state after a spokesman for Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz suggested election workers may ask voters to "cover up a hat, a shirt" bearing a WWE logo when they arrived at the polls.
Just prior to the ruling, Bysiewicz tried stepping back from the comments, issuing a memo that said voters could wear wrestling-themed regalia to the polls.
For Connecticut Democrats, the real danger the WWE poses is not from a wrestling fan wandering into a polling station wearing a "Stone Cold" Steve Austin T-shirt, but instead from the WWE, a wealthy organization which reaches directly into people's homes on an almost daily basis.
The complaint filed with the FEC by the state party alleges that WWE events to be held before and on Election Day, as well as corporate commercials that include Linda McMahon's image, break federal electioneering rules.
McMahon's campaign was adamant that "there was no coordination between us and WWE," said McMahon spokesman Shawn McCoy.
"I think what we're seeing from the Democrats is opportunistic partisan politics," said McCoy. "Despite (Democratic Senate candidate) Dick Blumenthal's reputation as attorney general for suing every company he could sue, he's never taken any action against the WWE."
The WWE echoed McCoy, saying it is "not involved in Linda McMahon's campaign."
Calls to the Blumenthal campaign were referred to the Connecticut state party.
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