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Cory Booker

  • Former mayor of Newark, New Jersey
  • Current U.S. Senator from New Jersey
  • Member of the Congressional Black Caucus
  • Supports comprehensive immigration reform
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Background

Cory Booker was born on April 27, 1969 in Washington, DC. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stanford University in 1991, a master’s degree in sociology from Stanford in 1992, and a JD from Yale Law School in 1997. Booker then served on the Newark (New Jersey) City Council from 1998 until 2002, at which time he ran for mayor of Newark but lost the Democratic primary to the incumbent, Sharpe James. In 2001, Booker began a five-year stint working for the Jersey-based law firm of Trenk DiPasquale.

Mayor of Newark

Booker left Trenk DiPasquale in 2006 when he was elected mayor of Newark, an office he went on to hold for seven years.

During his time as Newark mayor, Booker was absent from many important government-related meetings. Between January 2011 and July 2012, he was out of town fully 21.7% of the time – sometimes visiting late-night talk shows or attending public events in other cities. And according to Breitbart News, Booker “never attended a single meeting of a corporation he ran as board chairman, the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation.”

Protecting the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation, Despite Its Evident Corruption

During Booker’s tenure as mayor of Newark, the city experienced stratospheric levels of crime, poverty, and corruption. Most notably, Booker was the board chairman of the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation, a nonprofit group that was paid more than $10 million annually to run the city’s water infrastructure. When the state comptroller and the Newark Star-Ledger investigated Watershed in 2013-14, they discovered that it was routinely spending money in a profligate manner, awarding no-bid contracts to friends and cronies of the mayor, reaping the benefits of no-bid contracts awarded by the city of Newark, and using taxpayer money as a giant slush fund—at a time when budget shortfalls were forcing the city to lay off police officers and to depend, for its very solvency, upon tens of millions of dollars per year in state aid. Some examples:

  • Watershed’s executive director, Linda Watkins-Brashear, was formerly a donor and volunteer for Booker’s mayoral campaigns. During her tenure with Watershed, she wrote over 60 unauthorized checks to herself and paid a non-employee more than $23,000 for running various mundane errands.
  • When Watkins-Brashear announced in 2006 that she was leaving Watershed, she received a $209,097 severance package. But she then continued to work there until March 2013, at which time she received yet another severance package, of $453,805. All told, Watkins-Brashear paid herself $1.98 million during her last seven years at Watershed, though her official cumulative salary for that period amounted to just $1.16 million.
  • Watershed paid $15,000 to the father of one of its board members for a make-work “job,” and $16,000 to an interior-decorating firm owned by Watkins-Brashear’s ex-husband.
  • Elnardo Webster—Booker’s longtime friend, former campaign treasurer, and former law partner at Trenk DiPasquale—pocketed more than $1 million for his work as Watershed’s “counsel” during 2007-11. But neither he nor Watershed could ever produce the contract that supposedly authorized his services for the corporation.
  • During his tenure with Watershed, Webster received a 30-year tax abatement on a Newark office building that he owned.
  • vendor who met Linda Watkins-Brashear while working on a political campaign, heard that Watershed was handing out no-bid contracts for all manner of services. To cash in on that practice, in 2008 the vendor created a landscaping company—though he had never previously done such work—and obtained a contract from Watershed worth almost $390,000. He never even purchased any landscaping equipment until after he had secured the contract.

When the Newark City Council formed a committee in January 2012 to investigate Watershed’s spending, Elnardo Webster filed an injunction in court to shut down the probe. When the City Council refused to approve a new contract for Watershed in July 2012, Mayor Booker issued an executive order authorizing emergency contracts that enabled it to operate without Council approval. When the City Council unanimously approved a motion to dissolve Watershed and place the city in charge of it, Booker defeated the measure in court. And in October 2012, the mayor issued yet another executive order authorizing the city’s contract with Watershed to continue.

Booker’s Failure to Disclose Income from His Former Law Firm

From 2006-11 Booker received $698,000 in payouts from Trenk DiPasquale—income that the mayor failed to disclose on his Senate candidacy filings in 2013. When these funds came to light later that year, Booker explained that the money derived from a “confidential” agreement he had made with the firm years earlier. He offered three different public explanations of what the money was for: (a) services rendered, (b) an equity interest, and (c) a separation agreement for work he had performed before becoming mayor.[1]

Fabricated Personal Anecdotes

Booker’s prevarications have extended also to matters beyond finances. Indeed he has earned a reputation for repeatedly telling emotionally charged, highly detailed, and self-serving yet fictitious personal anecdotes during his political speeches:

* Particularly infamous was a tale wherein Booker claimed to have held and comforted a teenaged gunshot victim as the latter died in Booker’s arms. But in reality, the young victim died in a hospital some time after the shooting. And according to eyewitnesses, Booker grandstanded at the site of the shooting, moving the victim around in “a big act” and thereby potentially endangering him unnecessarily.

* In numerous other speeches, Booker fabricated the persona of a hardened, violent “drug lord” named “T-Bone,” who once, in a moment of desperation, had recognized Booker’s innate compassion and thus shared with him his heartrending life story, punctuated with many sobs. But in fact, “T-Bone” never actually existed.

* In a 2007 speech, Booker told a story about the recently deceased Newark activist Judy Diggs, claiming that she had died in a “truly poetic way” – “at school in front of a roomful of kids” to whom she was reading. (Click here for a video of Booker telling this story.) Upon learning of Booker’s remarks, the Diggs family came forward to correct the record: Judy Diggs in fact had died in her office.

Ethical Problem: Booker Becomes the Largest Shareholder in “Waywire”

In 2012 Booker conceived of a media startup company designed to give Newark teenagers an opportunity to create and post online videos about news stories which they deemed important, and to thereby join “the national conversation” and become potential “voices of change” in their communities. To bring Booker’s vision to fruition, the mayor’s friends in Silicon Valley created the video-sharing website Waywire, whose largest shareholder (with $1 million to $5 million worth of shares) was Booker himself. Melanie Sloan, executive director of the left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, noted that “if you’re getting a large percentage just because you’re a well-known political figure, that’s a little bit problematic” because “people tend to prefer their political figures not to be cashing in on their positions of public trust.” When critics speculated that Booker’s new venture might distract him from his political duties, Waywire co-founder Sarah Ross assured that the mayor’s only real task was to serve as Waywire’s “inspiration architect.”

Condemning the Supreme Court Regarding the 1965 Voting Rights Act

In June 2013, Booker was disturbed by a Supreme Court ruling that struck down a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). That provision had required mainly Southern states to undergo—based on the anachronistic presumption of their continuing racist tendencies—special federal scrutiny before they could be permitted to change their election laws in any way (e.g., by instituting Voter ID requirements or reconfiguring their voting districts). “I think discrimination is still real and evident in voting in … [how] district lines are drawn or where they put polling places,” said Booker, “and I think there’s still a need, frankly, for vigilance and protections under the law.” In June 2015, Booker joined a number of other U.S. senators in introducing legislation to restore the VRA provision in question.

U.S. Senator

In July 2013, Oprah Winfrey held a fundraiser for then-Mayor Booker’s U.S. Senate campaign, dubbing him a “rock star mayor.”

On October 16, 2013, Booker won a special election for the newly vacant U.S. Senate seat that Democrat Frank Lautenberg had occupied until his death four months earlier. Booker continues to serve in that post and is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Supporting the Iran Nuclear Deal

In 2015, Booker endorsed the nuclear deal that the Obama administration negotiated with Iran—an agreement allowing the Islamist regime in Tehran to enrich uranium, build advanced centrifuges, purchase ballistic missiles, fund terrorism, and have a near-zero breakout time to a nuclear bomb approximately a decade down the road. Asserting that support for the deal was “the better of two flawed options,” Booker said: “I believe rejection of the deal would allow Iran to achieve an aim it has wanted all along: a significant unwinding of sanctions without the constraints on its nuclear program that this deal provides.”

Opposing Senator Jeff Sessions’ Nomination As Attorney General

In January 2017, Booker testified against Republican Senator Jeff Sessions during the latter’s confirmation hearing for the post of U.S. Attorney General, thereby marking the first time in Senate history that a sitting senator had testified against another sitting senator for a Cabinet post during a confirmation process. “I do not take lightly the decision to testify against a Senate colleague,” said Booker. “But the immense powers of the attorney general combined with the deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience…. This is one of the more consequential appointments in American history right now given the state of a lot of our challenges we have with our policing, a lot of challenges we have with race relations, gay and lesbian relations.” Booker characterized Sessions’ track record as “concerning in a number of ways,” citing specifically his: (a) opposition to criminal-justice reform — reform founded on the premise that the penalties for certain supposedly “nonviolent” crimes such as drug trafficking should be lightened, even retroactively, so as to address the problem of “mass incarceration” that allegedly targets nonwhites in an unfair manner; (b) his opposition to a comprehensive immigration reform plan that would grant amnesty and a path-to-citizenship to countless millions of illegal aliens residing in the United States; (c) his criticism of the Voting Rights Act (specifically, a VRA provision — struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 — that designated which parts of the country needed to have any proposed changes to their election laws pre-cleared by the federal government); and (d) his “failure to defend the civil rights of women, minorities, and LGBT Americans.”

Portraying Senator Sessions As Racially Insensitive

Booker’s testimony against Sessions included a number of remarks wherein he made clear his own fervent belief that America is a nation replete with racism, discrimination, and injustice against nonwhites. Some excerpts:

  • “America was founded heralding not law and order, but justice for all. And critical to that is equal justice under the law. Law and order without justice is unobtainable, they are inextricably tied together. If there is no justice, there is no peace.”
  • “His [Sessions’] record indicates that at a time when even the FBI director is speaking out about implicit racial bias in policing and the need to address it; at a time when the last two Attorneys General [Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch] have taken steps to fix our broken criminal justice system; and at a time when the Justice Department he would lead has uncovered systemic abuses in police departments all over the United States including Ferguson, including Newark; Senator Sessions would not continue to lead urgently needed change.”
  • “Challenges of race in America cannot be addressed if we refuse to confront them. Persistent biases cannot be defeated unless we combat them. The arc of the universe does not just naturally curve toward justice – we must bend it.”

Voting Against Cuts to U.S. Funding of Palestinians

In August 2017, Booker was one of only four members (all Democrats) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) who voted against legislation designed to cut U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority until it stopped making payments to the families of Islamic terrorists who had been killed or wounded while waging jihad – payments that amounted to some $300 million annually. The bill passed through the SFRC with bipartisan support, by a margin of 17-to-4.

Opposing President Trump’s Decision to Move U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

When President Donald Trump announced in December 2017 that the U.S. would be relocating its diplomatic embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and that it recognized that city as Israel’s capital, Booker objected, saying that any decision about the future of either the capital or the embassy should be “part of a larger peace process.” “It should be part of negotiations for eventual final status,” he added. “We need to be working towards peace in that region.”

Introduction of a Bill to Remove Confederate Statues From the U.S. Capitol

In September 2017, Booker, along with Representatives Barbara Lee and Bennie Thompson, introduced a bicameral bill to remove Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol.

The three legislators re-introduced this bill in February 2021. “The National Statuary Hall Collection is intended to honor American patriots who served, sacrificed, or made tremendous contributions to our nation,” said Booker. “Those who committed treason against the United States of America and led our nation into its most painful and bloody war to preserve the institution of slavery are not patriots and should not be afforded such a rare honor in this sacred space. Removing these statues from the Capitol is long overdue, and is especially urgent in the aftermath of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6 by violent, far-right-wing extremists and white supremacists, some of whom carried Confederate symbols.”

Opposing SOS Nominee Mike Pompeo Because of His Views Regarding Gay Marriage

During an April 12, 2018 Senate confirmation hearing for Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the position of Secretary of State, Booker pressed Pompeo about his views on homosexuality and gay marriage. Referencing a speech Pompeo had made years before as a Kansas congressman – wherein Pompeo had cited a sermon which said, in part, that America had “endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle” – Booker asked Pompeo whether he believed “that gay sex is a perversion.” Pompeo replied, “When I was a politician, I had a very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry. I stand by that.” When Booker then repeated his question, Pompeo answered, “I’m going to give you the same answer I gave you previously. My respect for every individual regardless of their sexual orientation is the same.”

The following day, Booker announced on Facebook that he would vote against Pompeo, in part because “he has stated that he believes homosexuality is a perversion and that he will fight to end the right of same-sex couples to marry” – a view that, in Booker’s estimation, made Pompeo unfit to serve in the federal office he was seeking. Commenting on Booker’s decision, National Organization for Marriage chairman John Eastman said: “Sen. Cory Booker questioned Secretary of State-nominee Mike Pompeo for comments he made at his church, comments which reflected long-standing church doctrine regarding homosexual conduct and the biblical definition of marriage. And now Sen. Booker asserts that he will oppose Pompeo for those views. This is essentially imposing a religious test on officers of the United States, something explicitly forbidden by Article VI of the Constitution.”

Booker Seeks to Constrain Free Speech by Conservatives

In April 2018, Booker was one of 12 U.S. senators who sought to punish the Sinclair Broadcast Group – widely perceived as a conservative media company – which (a) consisted of 193 television stations and 614 channels in 89 markets nationwide, and (b) had recently announced plans to acquire the Tribune Media Company’s 42 TV stations in 33 markets, a merger that, if completed, would extend Sinclair’s reach to 72% of all American households. The twelve senators included Booker, Independent Bernie Sanders, and 10 other DemocratsTammy Baldwin, Richard Blumenthal, Maria Cantwell, Edward Markey, Jeff Merkley, Patty Murray, Tina Smith, Tom UdallElizabeth Warren, and Ron Wyden.

In a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai, these senators expressed concern over the fact that Sinclair had recently aired an ad showing its various local anchors reading from a corporate script extolling the virtue of “balanced journalism”; stating that “truth is neither politically ‘left or right’”; emphasizing the importance of a “commitment” to reporting that “seek[s] the truth and strive[s] to be fair, balanced and factual”; criticizing “some members of the media” for “us[ing] their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’”; and condemning “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.”

Viewing the Sinclair ad as an implicit defense of President Donald Trump, who had long been under withering attack by media outlets nationwide, the senators wrote in their letter: “We are concerned that Sinclair is engaged in a systematic news distortion operation that seeks to undermine freedom of the press and the robust localism and diversity of viewpoint that is the foundation of our national broadcasting laws.” “We have strong concerns,” they added, “that Sinclair has violated the public interest obligation inherent in holding broadcast licenses. Sinclair may have violated the FCC’s longstanding policy against broadcast licensees deliberately distorting news by staging, slanting, or falsifying information.” The senators also demanded that the FCC put on hold its review of Sinclair’s potential merger with Tribune.

In his response, Pai said he “must respectfully decline” the senators’ request “in light of my commitment to protecting the First Amendment and freedom of the press.” “I understand that you disliked or disagreed with the content of particular broadcasts,” he added, “but I can hardly think of an action more chilling of free speech than the federal government investigating a broadcast station because of disagreement with its news coverage or promotion of that coverage.”

“From Palestine to Mexico, All the Walls Have Got to Go”

At a Netroots Nation conference in early August 2018, Booker posed for a photograph with Leah Muskin-Pierret, who: (a) was a former member of Students for Justice in Palestine; (b) had contributed to the legal defense fund for the convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh; and (c) was now the head of government affairs for the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR), a highly influential pro-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions) organization. In the photo, Booker was holding a sign that said, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go” — a USCPR slogan advocating the dismantling of the security barrier built by Israel during the Second Intifada.

Booker’s Hypocrisy Regarding Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh

In mid-September 2018 — one week before the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court — Senator Dianne Feinstein tried to derail that nomination by publicly floating allegations wherein California psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford — a pro-Democrat, anti-Trump activist — claimed that the 53-year-old Kavanaugh had groped her at a party 36 years earlier, when both were in high school. Senator Booker, for his part, vociferously sought to delay the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings until more could be learned about the incident in question. Then, on September 20, a number of media outlets reported that in 1992, Booker himself, during his days as a graduate student at Stanford University, had written a column for The Stanford Daily in which he acknowledged that at a party on New Year’s Eve of 1984, at the age of 15, he had fondled an intoxicated female friend.

Proposing “Opportunity Accounts” to Decrease Wealth Inequality

In October 2018, Booker proposed the creation of “opportunity accounts” which, as a means of reducing wealth inequality in the United States, would give taxpayer money to children from poor families for the first 18 years of their lives. “It would be a dramatic change in our country to have low-income people break out of generational poverty,” Booker told an interviewer from Vox.com. “We could rapidly bring security into those families’ lives, and that is really exciting to me.” In a bill titled the American Opportunity Accounts Act, Booker proposed that every U.S.-born child be given a savings account seeded with $1,000 at the time of his or her birth. That account would then be supplemented by as much as $2,000 annually until the age of 18, with children from poorer families receiving more than children from more affluent homes. Booker’s office estimated that the average black child would accrue $29,038 by age 18, as compared to $27,337 for the average Latino child and $15,790 for the average white child.

Opponent of Constitutional Originalism

In September 2018 — during the Senate confirmation hearing for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — Booker cited the Founding Fathers’ racism and misogyny in explaining why he opposed Constitutional originalism:  “I love that my colleagues keep going back to the Constitution but understand this: I laud our Founders, I think they were geniuses. But I understand that millions of Americans understand that they were also flawed people. We know our Founders and their values and their ideals but we also know that they were flawed and you can see that in the documents. Native Americans were referred to as savages, women weren’t referred to at all, African Americans were referred to as fractions of human beings. As one civil-rights activist used to say ‘constitutu, constitu, I can only say three-fifths of the word.’”

  • Note: Booker’s allusion about the three-fifths compromise, by which the Constitution counted each black slave as only three-fifths of a person — is historically illiterate. As author David Horowitz explains: “In fact the United States Constitution does not mention race, let alone consider Americans who are black to be three-fifths of a human being. The famous three-fifths compromise was made over the census count of slaves. While all slaves were black, at the time the Constitution was writ­ten there were also tens of thousands of free blacks who were citizens and whom the census counted as full human beings. The purpose of the count was to determine the assignment of congressional districts, and thus the distribution of governmental power. It was the anti-slavery Founders who proposed the three-fifths compromise in order to diminish the electoral strength of the slaveholding South. It was the party of slavery [the Democrats], on the other side, that wanted to count slaves as full citizens in order to increase [the slaveholding states’] power to protect the slave system. In other words, from the point of view of the slaves themselves, it would have been better (and truer) had they been counted as only one-fifth of a citizen, or — better still — not at all.”

Launching a Presidential Campaign

On February 1, 2019, Booker officially announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination.

Booker’s Refusal to Acknowledge That He Was Wrong to Believe Jussie Smollett’s Fake Story of a Racial Attack

On January 29, 2019, Booker reacted reacted with immediate, horrified outrage when media outlets nationwide reported that “Empire” television actor Jussie Smollett, an openly gay African American, was claiming that he had just been victimized by a hate crime perpetrated by two white men who allegedly had assaulted him, poured bleach on him, draped a rope around his neck, and shouted “This is MAGA country,” along with a variety of anti-black and anti-gay slurs. Upon hearing this story, Booker tweeted: “The vicious attack on actor Jussie Smollett was an attempted modern-day lynching. I’m glad he’s safe.” Moreover, the senator called for the passage of an anti-lynching law.

On February 14, 2019, Booker and fellow Senators Kamala Harris and Tim Scott (a black Republican) asked for unanimous consent on the Senate floor to pass the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, legislation that would criminalize lynching for the first time in U.S. history. The motion was passed.

Less than three weeks after Smollett had first reported the attack against him, it became clear that his tale was a fabrication, and that he himself had orchestrated the entire “attack” in order to gain publicity and to discredit President Trump and his supporters. When a reporter at that point (February 17) asked Booker to comment on the matter, the senator replied: “Well, the information is still coming out, and I’m going to withhold until all the information comes out from on-the-record sources. We know in America that bigoted and biased attacks are on the rise, in a serious way. We actually know in this country, that since 9/11 the majority of the terrorist attacks on our soil have been right wing terrorist attacks, the majority of them white supremacist attacks….” The senator was also asked whether Smollett’s hoax undermined the prospects of the anti-lynching bill that Booker had introduced earlier that week. Booker dodged the question, saying: “We have seen painful realities surge in our country, a rise in anti-Semitism, anti-Islamic attacks. We’re seeing just vicious, horrific, cruel violence that’s motivated by bias and hate. We need to do more to protect all Americans and make sure all neighborhoods and communities are safe.”

Booker Ends His Presidential Campaign

Nearly a year later, on January 13, 2020, Booker announced that he was dropping out of the Democratic presidential primary. He said in an email to his supporters: “Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win — money we don’t have, and money that is harder to raise because I won’t be on the next debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment [of President Trump] will rightly be keeping me in Washington.”

Support From Islamists

Over the years, Booker has received a few donations from high-ranking officials and/or board members of Islamist organizations. Specifically, from 2013-2018, he received a total of $2,705 in contributions from individuals affiliated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Alliance in North America.

Voting Record & Policy Positions

For an overview of Booker’s voting record and policy positions on a variety of key issues, click here.

Footnotes

  1. For three consecutive years during which he served as Newark mayor, Booker claimed on his tax returns that he had “materially participated in the operation” of the Trenk DiPasquale firm, which conducted millions of dollars worth of business with the city. If Booker’s claim was true, it would have constituted an egregiuos violation of ethical standards by a government official. Booker spokesman Kevin Griffis, however, told the press that Booker was not obligated to disclose on his Senate financial-disclosure form the payments he had received from Trenk DiPasquale, because (according to Griffis) the money was a return on equity rather than “compensation for services rendered.” But as National Review Online notes, “If that is true, then the mayor’s tax returns are fraudulent.”

Additional Resources