NEW YORK -- The great-granddaughter of a man involved in Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon's bankruptcy said that despite press reports to the contrary, her family believes he never received the money he was owed -- and that the McMahon campaign has not responded to their requests to set the record straight.
The concerns of Harold Hemingway's heirs are one more chapter in the evolving saga of McMahon's 1976 bankruptcy with her husband, Vince. McMahon, who went on to run World Wrestling Entertainment, has used the story of that bankruptcy as an example of her connection to ordinary voters.
That narrative was complicated, however, when aggrieved creditors were uncovered by The Day of New London. So McMahon and her husband promised to make things right, even though they are not legally required to do so by bankruptcy laws.
"It is our intention to reimburse all private individual creditors that can be reached,” McMahon said in a statement.
That satisfied at least one woman who was sent a check in the mail for a debt she had long ago written off. But the great-grandaughter of the McMahons' largest individual creditor, Harold Hemingway, told HuffPost that McMahon's campaign has ignored her attempts to contact them.
"I have called every day. I have left messages. I am getting nowhere. I have sent emails to (campaign manager) Corry Bliss," said Meagan Newton, Hemingway's descendant. "We obviously have absolutely no faith in that woman's campaign."
"It's like being punched in the stomach, 40 years later," Newton said. "I'm not contesting whatsoever that anything legally is owed to us ... Believe you me, this is not about money. This is about you saying things to the press repeatedly and not once returning our phone calls."
The campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
In 1973, Hemingway sold his cement plant to a group of investors, including Vince McMahon, for a sum of $127,800, to be paid in 28 installments. By 1974 that group was failing to make payments. When McMahon and his wife -- who was not involved in the deal -- went into bankruptcy two years later, the document discovered by The Day lists them as owing Hemingway $109,575.28.
McMahon's campaign has said that the family paid off about half of their creditors in bankruptcy. Hemingway was listed as a "secured" creditor on the bankruptcy document, which means he should have been toward the top of the list of those who were repaid.
But Newton has found a February 1975 mortgage modification made between Vince McMahon's investor group and Hemingway that she said shows that debt wasn't actually secured after all.
Old and in failing health, Hemingway had transferred power of attorney to his daughter. She signed a mortgage modification subordinating Hemingway's debt to the Mattatuck Bank and Trust.
"Hemingway is willing to waive the aforesaid defaults on his first mortgage, existing as of this date, and to subordinate his mortgage to the new mortgage of the Mattatuck Bank and Trust company," the modification signed by Vince McMahon reads, "provided that the (investors) ... pay to Hemingway the aforesaid past due principal installments, with interest thereon."
The investors received a mortgage loan of $150,000. But the Mattatuck Bank and Trust foreclosed on the investor group in July 1976. Newton, who was 2 years old when Hemingway died in August 1976, said that her family believes none of the make-up payments were ever made, either before or after the McMahons' April 1976 bankruptcy.
The modification and mortgage loan meant that Hemingway's estate was not secured for repayment on the cement plant that he had poured his life into, Newton argued.
John Aldi, one of McMahon's business partners on the cement plant venture, disputed the suggestion that Hemingway was never paid back.
Aldi also believes Vince McMahon had a share in the plant that was worth only 15 percent to 25 percent of its value. Aldi said the more than $100,000 in debt listed on the McMahons' November 1976 bankruptcy form was simply the result of lawyers being overcautious and listing the full value of the Hemingway mortgage.
"I believe Hemingway got paid, I believe he did." Aldi said. "Nobody bamboozled anybody."
"Where'd the money go if we got a loan? It was a $150,000 loan," Aldi said. "I think it was to pay (Hemingway)" and for inventory.
If Hemingway was repaid, nothing in his estate's records document that. Probate records indicate he passed away worth only about $30,000.
Vince McMahon, meanwhile, told Playboy in 2001 that "I got involved with people who weren't that bright and let them tell me that I needed tax shelters. There was a construction company, a horse farm, a cement plant, and it all went belly-up. I felt bad about the bankruptcy. I wanted to pay what I owed, but there were other people involved, and finally the banks wrote it all off."
Newton would like for news articles to stop claiming that her great-grandfather "likely was paid." And she would like the McMahon campaign to stop claiming that every "private individual" creditor is being made whole.
"It would be nice if someone from their campaign would directly contact our family and say, 'Hey, our grandfather isn't qualified for this,'" Newton said.
Newtown said she will not be voting in this election and that there are "no donkeys, no elephants anywhere in my life." She just wants the McMahon campaign to set the record straight.