Cory Booker is the junior senator from the state of New Jersey. Booker is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidential election in 2020. Prior to his career in the US Senate, Booker was the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Before becoming mayor, he served as a councilman for the city.
As a senator, Booker has only had two bills passed into law. He has supported progressive policies such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. He has close relationships with both the big tech and pharmaceutical industries and has taken significant amounts of money from those industries. On the campaign trail, Booker said he was open to packing the Supreme Court and eliminating the filibuster in the Senate.
In 1991, Booker graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Stanford University. In 1992, Booker then earned a Master’s Degree in Sociology from Stanford University. That same year, Booker was named a Rhodes scholar and studied at Queen’s College in Oxford. In 1994, Booker received an honors masters’ degree in United States history from Queen’s College. He then went on to obtain a J.D. from Yale Law School, graduating in 1997.
From 1998 until 2002, (LINK DEAD) Booker worked as an attorney and served on the Newark City Council. In 2002, Booker ran and lost to the incumbent Sharpe James in Newark’s mayoral election. “Street Fight,” a documentary about Booker’s 2002 mayoral campaign was released.
On December 20, 2012, Booker announced that he would explore running for the U.S. Senate in 2014 for the seat held by Democratic incumbent Frank Lautenberg. In June of 2013, Booker formally announced his run for Senate. He won the Democratic Primary on August 13, 2013, and defeated Republican Steve Lonegan on October 16, 2013, to serve the remaining 15 months of Lautenberg’s term.
On November 4, 2014, Booker defeated Republican Jeff Bell to serve a full six-year term in the Senate.
On February 1, 2019, Booker formally announced that he would be seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election.
Political and Professional Experience
During Booker’s tenure as mayor of Newark, he was often criticized for his work and time spent “cheerleading” rather than improving the city. Many “residents saw Booker as catering to his pals and donors from New York, creating jobs for reverse commuters, while city jobs dried up.”
Booker’s former supporters, including business leaders, council members, and those working on his education projects, criticized his efforts as mayor. He also received criticism from other New Jersey politicians, academics, and residents. He has been characterized as a political opportunist caring more about optics than people, particularly on social media. Newark residents say Booker often lacked substance and offered “more talk than action.”
In the past, Booker told exaggerated stories about Newark for political gain, causing tension. In 2014, The National Review reported Booker made up an imaginary friend “T-Bone” to tell stories about Newark archetypes. Clement Price, a professor at Rutgers University-Newark and Booker’s friend, told National Review Booker admitted T-Bone was “a composite” of other Newark citizens. In 2008, Booker told Esquire that “T-Bone’s corporeal being is 1,000 percent real” but also an “archetype” of Newark whose name may not actually be T-Bone.
In 2007, Cory Booker fictionalized the death of Newark activist Judy Diggs for political narrative. Booker said that Diggs died “in front of the school kids, giving them a lecture.” After Diggs’ family expressed outrage, Booker apologized for his story, noting that it was “in bad taste.”
Booker also told a fictional story about Newark resident Wazn Miller dying in his arms from a gunshot wound to boost his street credit. He used the story while campaigning for mayor in 2006. According to witnesses, a woman was cradling Miller when Booker came and picked Miller up from her arms. Witnesses and the police report confirm that Miller was still breathing when the ambulance arrived and later died in the hospital.
Multiple investigations of the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation (NWCDC) found that the agency’s director, Linda Watkins Brashear had run a patronage organization that included awarding no-show contracts and cooking the books. Booker oversaw the Watershed as Newark mayor and his former law firm profited over $200,000 from the Watershed. Watkins Brashear donated over $5,000 to Booker and his Newark allies from 2008 to 2010 and volunteered for Booker’s mayoral campaigns. She also gave $1,000 to Booker’s Senate campaign. Watkins Brashear is currently serving eight years in prison for her role in the scheme. Donald Bernard Sr., the special projects manager for the Watershed, was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for conspiring with Brashear over a period of five years to solicit bribes. Dianthe Martinez Brooks, a former consultant for the watershed, pleaded guilty to defrauding the NWCDC by taking payment for work that was never done. As a result of the investigation, the Watershed was dissolved.
Booker campaigned on improving Newark’s neediest neighborhoods, but from 2010 to 2012 the number of homicides increased and carjackings spiked. Newark was ranked 20th on the FBI’s 2012 ranking of the country’s most dangerous cities.
Newark’s unemployment rate almost doubled during Booker’s tenure leading the city. In 2010, Booker cut 25 percent of Newark’s government jobs to narrow the $83 million budget gap the city was facing. He also raised taxes more than 20 percent.
In 2010, Booker’s former Deputy Mayor, Ronald Salahuddin, was indicted on extortion and bribery charges “for allegedly funneling contracts to a trucking company that he partially owned.” Salahuddin bragged about his ability to have Booker’s chief of staff pressure city officials to funnel contracts. In October 2011, Salahuddin was convicted of conspiring to commit extortion and was sentenced to a year in prison.
While serving as mayor, Booker often spent time out of state. In July 2012, The Star-Ledger called Booker the “absentee mayor” and found that he was outside New Jersey for at least 119 days since January 1, 2011. Booker once skipped a meeting to go to New York to be on C-SPAN with Richard Branson. His time away from the office left “a power vacuum, where unelected officials make decisions that should belong to the mayor.” Booker’s office justified his time outside of the city for the sake of bringing money and resources back to the city. Booker spent a large portion of his time traveling to give nearly 100 speeches, for which he was paid nearly $1.3 million.
In addition to making money from paid speeches while serving as mayor, Booker received a salary from his old law firm, Trenk, DiPasquale, Webster. From 2006 to 2011, Booker was receiving annual payments from Trenk, DiPasquale, Webster, totaling close to $700,000. While Booker received money from the firm, the firm received contracts from the city of Newark, including over $2 million in contracts from Newark’s Housing Authority, a wastewater agency, and the Watershed Conservation Development Corporation. Booker chose to not disclose the money he made from his old law firm.
In 2012, Booker launched Waywire, a social media aggregate site geared toward millennials.
Waywire received $1.75 million in start-up money from First Round Capital and Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s “Innovation Fund.” Local leaders were concerned about Booker taking his focus away from Newark as a result of his role in Waywire. However, Booker promised his stake would be placed in a blind trust and he would not be involved with day-to-day operations.
Booker was not transparent about his investments and involvement in Waywire. He did not report his stake in the company, which was worth between $1 and $5 million, in either his mayoral financial disclosures or his original Senate disclosure. The company also hired Booker’s associates, including a son of a campaign donor and his social media consultant.
“a few tech moguls and entrepreneurs, many of them also campaign donors, not only made a financial bet on the mayor’s political future but also provided the brainpower and financing to help create a company that could make him very rich.” Booker also put Andrew Zucker, the then-15-year-old son of CNN President Jeff Zucker, on the board of Waywire and gave him stock options.
In September 2013, Booker announced that he would cut ties with Waywire.
That same year, Booker ran for Senate, receiving donations from large tech company moguls and their respective PACs. During the 2014 election cycle, Google’s PAC donated $12,500 to Booker’s senatorial campaign. Booker had also received regular donations from Amazon’s PAC, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, and Jeff Bezos’ step-father, Mike Bezos, who donated $10,000 to Booker’s senatorial campaign fund on June 5, 2013. Donald Katz, CEO of Audible.com, Amazon’s audiobook platform, donated $10,500 to Booker’s campaign and hosted Booker’s campaign kickoff at Audible.com headquarters.
However, in July 2017 Booker began to express concerns about the size of the same companies that donated to his campaigns, Amazon and Google. “I think these are extremely dangerous people in positions right now that are going to do nothing but inflame the economic injustices we’re already seeing in our country, giving more power to corporate consolidation, to corporations as a whole, and less power to Americans,” he said in response to questions about their record.
On the Issues
Corporate Tax Rates
As a senator, Booker supported lowering corporate tax rates saying that “eliminating deductions targeted to specific industries would help spur investment… So would a lower tax rate to encourage companies to bring back earnings from overseas.”
In 2011, Booker supported tax breaks to encourage Panasonic to build its headquarters in Newark.
Booker voted against the 2017 tax cuts and specifically criticized corporate tax cuts saying “instead of giving massive tax breaks to corporations and hoping it somehow gets to workers, let’s just give the money directly to workers.” (senate floor no link in doc)
In 2017, Booker supported a $7 billion tax credit deal to lure Amazon to Newark.
Education and School Choice
Booker has longstanding support for education reform, supporting policies like merit pay for teachers, school vouchers, and the establishment of charter schools. While serving as Newark mayor, Booker worked with now-U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos and gave a speech at her non-profit, the American Federation for Children.
In 2017, Booker voted against DeVos’s confirmation to be Secretary of Education, citing concerns about her commitment to civil rights.
Cory Booker said single-payer health care and Medicare for all is something that he “fundamentally believe[s] in.” However, Booker has also said he “wouldn’t get behind a single-payer health care system.”
Booker is one of the top recipients of campaign money from pharmaceutical companies. In January 2017, Booker was one of the few Senate Democrats to vote against an amendment that would have allowed Americans to import cheaper prescription drugs from Canada.
Cory Booker supported the 2018 version of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act and cited the recent rise in anti-Semitism as the reason for his support.
Universal Basic Income/ Guaranteed Jobs
In April of 2018, Booker introduced the Federal Jobs Guarantee Development Act.
In 2000, as a city councilman in Newark, Cory Booker suggested banning all guns was a path toward limiting gun violence. Ten years later, then-Mayor Booker backtracked, admitting that banning assault weapons would only prevent a “small percentage” of murders. As mayor, Booker also called the gun debate “tiring.”
With a long-time F rating from the NRA, Booker supports universal background checks for all firearms, as well as banning high capacity magazines and assault rifles. His continued effort to regulate firearms also includes a commitment to banning bump stocks, which increase the firing rate of semi-automatic weapons.
During a March 2019 visit to Des Moines, Iowa, Booker addressed the issue of common sense gun reform. “This is one of the things where there must be a sense of urgency in doing the things that we can do and the overwhelming majority of Americans agree on. 86 percent of NRA members believe that we should close these loopholes that allow people who shouldn’t have guns to buy them,” said Booker.
Cory Booker has been a strong supporter of DACA and has ardently opposed Trump administration policies since the 2016 election. Booker and other Senate Democrats failed to support a year-end spending bill that did not include a legislative fix for DACA. His support for DACA children has progressed as he more recently sponsored a bill preventing DHS from giving personal information about DACA recipients to law enforcement officials.
Booker is a vocal critic of child separation at the border and joined other 2020 presidential candidates in requesting weekly updates on separated children. He co-sponsored the REUNITE Act that aimed at reuniting separated children with their parents and objected to Pentagon sending troops to southern border leading up to the 2018 midterm election. Mr. Booker has not joined other Democrats in calling for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement but believes Congress should take a “serious look” at the agency.
“What most people don’t understand is the agency is not that old,” Booker said. “I’m one of those people that calls for us taking a serious look. I think we should be having hearings and really dive into this agency. It costs Americans billions of dollars. It’s not necessarily, in my opinion, achieving its high-minded purpose that might be achieved better in other ways.”
Booker supports the Green New Deal calling it “bold.” He was criticized by the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club for his spotty record on environmental issues as mayor of Newark. Environmental leaders also criticized him for not implementing regulations to stop pollution in the city.
CNN: How Cory Booker’s past support for school choice could complicate his 2020 campaign
Washington Free Beacon: Booker Flip Flops on BDS
Fox News: 2020 Dems take aim at filibuster, say Senate tradition should ‘go the way of history’
Fox News Insider: Booker Echoes Pelosi on Worker Bonuses: ‘We’re Getting Crumbs’ From Tax Cuts
Newark Star-Ledger: Booker asks how Trump can pick Supreme Court justice while Russia probe continues
Town Hall: How Do You Do, Trump Voters: Dem Senator *Knows* Rural Americans Because He Read A Book About Them
Fox News: Cory Booker: Get in the face of Congress members
Real Clear Politics: Booker: “We Need To Stop The Bullsh*t Partisanship In This Country”
Washington Free Beacon: Booker Critical of Monsanto, but Relies on Its Former Lobbyist in Iowa
Washington Examiner: Sen. Cory Booker promised to quit PAC money and then turned around and accepted PAC money
Newsmax: Booker Laments Canada More American Than America
Washington Free Beacon: Booker Dodges on Whether He Supports Eliminating Insurance Companies
The Intercept: Cory Booker Claims He Didn’t Know He Held A Pro-Palestine Sign. New Details Cast Doubt On His Denial