Sunday, August 11, 2013






Three Democrats And Cory Booker

"Everything is a ribbon-cutting and a press conference from him and some goodwill stuff he puts on Twitter," says Ron Rice, state senator and Newark, NJ resident, "and meanwhile he is never here."

And that was in early April, before absentee Newark mayor Cory Booker announced he would run for the Senate seat vacated by the death of the great Frank Lautenberg, meanwhile avoiding the risk in running for governor against the popular Christoper J. Christie.

At the third and last debate of the campaign, one of the three actual Democrats in the race, Representative Frank Pallone, asked "What about Waywire - this Internet startup, which he’s actually benefiting from personally as he goes around the country and meets these millionaires?"

The answer comes from Phil Kerpen of the conservative SuperPac American Commitment Action Fund, who explains

The bulk of Senate candidate and Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s personal wealth, according to a blockbuster New York Times expose, comes from a previously unknown company called Waywire, which styles itself as a “socially conscious” alternative to YouTube.

Waywire counts Oprah Winfrey, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter among its investors, but the tiny company (2,207 total visitors in June compared to YouTube’s 160 million) looks more like a multimillion dollar gift to Cory Booker than a real business.

Booker claimed last year he would have no role in directing the site’s content, which makes it odd that so many of the videos on Waywire feature Booker. 

It’s almost like the whole thing is a backdoor vehicle to promote Booker’s campaign for the U.S. Senate and funnel money to him personally. And until Thursday, the 15 year-old son of CNN president Jeff Zucker was on the company’s advisory board (complete with stock options), perhaps to ensure favorable coverage from that network.

Given Schmidt’s involvement, it’s reasonable to speculate the plan was for Google, the parent company of YouTube, to buy out Waywire and provide Booker with a massive windfall at some point in the future.

You have to wonder how, if elected, Booker could possibly make important decisions about privacy and technology policy in an unbiased fashion in the United States Senate, knowing his financial future depends on his Waywire stake and a potential payday from Google.

For now the low-traffic website serves principally to bring together Booker and his big money backers at headquarters located just a block from Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange.

That’s right: would-be Jersey senator Cory Booker put his company in New York City – even though he once told the Times that he sees Newark as “the Silicon Valley of social entrepreneurship.”

Situating a company near Wall Street no doubt makes Cory Booker eminently comfortable.During the presidential campaign Barack Obama, who had run an ad tying Mitt Romney to Bain Capital, stated

When you're president, as opposed to the head of a private equity firm, then your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. Your job is to think about those workers who get laid off and how are we paying them for their retraining?

I think there are folks who do good work in that area, and there are times where they identify the capacity for the economy to create new jobs or new industries. But understand that their priority is to maximize profits. And that's not always going to be good for communities or businesses or workers.

To which Cory Booker- then a surrogate for Obama- responded (before being prevailed upon to walk the statement back)

It’s nauseating to the American public.   Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity. Stop attacking Jeremiah Wright.

As far as that stuff, I have to just say from a very personal level I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity. To me, it’s just we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America. Especially that I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions and other people invest in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot to support businesses [and] to grow businesses. And this, to me, I’m very uncomfortable with.

Booker was prevailed upon to walk the statement back, but the sentiment and intent were clear.   A little over a year ago, Think Progress examined campaign records from the first of Booker's two successful runs for mayor and found

Contributions to his 2002 campaign from venture capitalists, investors, and big Wall Street bankers brought him more than $115,000 for his 2002 campaign. Among those contributing to his campaign were John Connaughton ($2,000), Steve Pagliuca ($2,200), Jonathan Lavine ($1,000) — all of Bain Capital. While the forms are not totally clear, it appears the campaign raised less than $800,000 total, making this a significant percentage.

He and his slate also jointly raised funds for the “Booker Team for Newark” joint committee. They received more than $450,000 for the 2002 campaign from the sector — including a pair of $15,400 contributions from Bain Capital Managing Directors Joshua Bekenstein and Mark Nunnelly. It appears that for the initial campaign and runoff, the slate raised less than $4 million — again making this a sizable chunk.

In all — just in his first Mayoral run — Booker’s committees received more than $565,000 from the people he was defending. At least $36,000 of that came from folks at Romney’s old firm.

Wall Street, meet Silicon Valley.  There are other reasons (including the mayor's involvement with the eeducation 'reform' movement to destroy the public school system) for New Jersey Democrats to vote against Cory Booker in the special primary set (by "fiscal conservative" Chris Christie, at a cost of $23 million dollars) for August 13.   In March of 2012, then-Salon contributor Steve Kornacki wrote

the only question in New Jersey has been when – and not if – Booker will seek to run for statewide office. In 2009, the beleaguered Jon Corzine begged him to run for lieutenant governor on his ticket, an offer that Booker wisely refused. He’s often touted as a potential gubernatorial candidate for 2013, but those who know him say his eye is more on the Senate seat now held by 88-year-old Frank Lautenberg, which will be up in 2014.

Booker could have helped his party when Governor Corzine wanted him on his ticket, but the mayor realized Corzine probably would lose.  As the only Democrat who might have beaten Chris Christie this year, Booker could have run for governor, but it would have been a difficult general election battle.  Instead, he wanted to challenge Democrat Frank Lautenberg for re-nomination when it appeared the incumbent (now deceased) would run again. (Given the nature of the state and the range of candidates the GOP could offer, this is a Senate seat Democrats would lose only if they asked the electorate to vote against them.  And then it would be close.)   He is pitted against three Democrats, including Assembly Majority Leader Sheila Oliver, largely well-meaning but inexperienced and woefully over-matched.

The other two Democrats facing Democrat-In-Name-Only Booker are the unassuming U.S. Representative Frank Pallone and Representative Rush Holt.  (A Democratic Senator named Rush- the irony would be bracing.)  They are among the most progressive/liberal and competent Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives and both would make far better representatives of the state, and advocates for the middle class, than would Cory Booker.

It is conventional wisdom that Governor Christie, in the wake of Lautenberg's death, set a special date (October 16) for the general election in the Senate so that the very popular Booker- even then the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination- would not appear on the same ballot as Christie in November.   But in helping to ensure his own victory by a large margin- thus increasing his viability for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016- Christie also sabotaged the election prospects of whomever would emerge from his own party's primary.  The latter will have little time to build name recognition and secure funding for a race against the Newark mayor and would be denied the opportunity to appear on the ballot alongside the popular governor.

That candidate is expected to be former Bogota mayor, former Americans for Prosperity director and current spokesperson Steve Lonegan, who ran unsuccessfully against Christie for the GOP gubernatorial nomination four years ago.  It may be entirely fitting that in a state in which two self-absorbed media stars, a Republican running for re-election to the Statehouse and a Democrat running for election to the Senate, are expected to emerge victorious, the Senate race itself will pit a corporation disguised as a man against a corporation disguised as a man.



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