Many were surprised to watch Meet The Press and see Obama campaign "surrogate" Newark Mayor Cory Booker attack the message of the Obama Campaign, from Politico:
Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a rising Democratic star, criticized on Sunday the Obama campaign’s attack ad against Mitt Romney for his work at Bain Capital.It is nauseating to talk about a candidate's business record? A record the candidate himself has have made fundamental to his candidacy? Stop attacking private equity?
“It’s nauseating to the American public,” Booker said on NBC's "Meet the Press." “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,” he added. “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.”
Who is this Cory Booker fellow and why is he speaking for the Obama campaign let alone the Democratic Party?
Well, the people that know Mayor Booker were not surprised he was defending private equity and Big Business generally (admittedly we were surprised he would do it in the context of attacking the campaign he is speaking for). They were not surprised because Cory Booker would actually be much more at home in the Republican Party - an option unavailable to politicians who want public office in Newark, a city which is overwhelmingly Democratic. In fact, registered Democrats are so dominant within the city that the substantial election for power is in reality the Democratic Primary not the general election. If Booker had registered his more appropriate party affiliation he would have had zero chance of becoming a city councilman let alone Mayor.
Cory Booker's position on private equity is both ideological and practical and not some aberration. But before going into that it should be noted Mayor Booker tried to walk back his comments and was, not surprisingly, very unconvincing. From Steve Kornacki:
It didn’t take long for Cory Booker to get the message. Just hours after undermining the Obama campaign’s main line of attack against Mitt Romney, the Newark mayor released a video late Sunday afternoon in an effort to repair some of the damage.Props to Mr. Kornacki for digging a little beneath the surface, but allow me to toss aside your shovel and bring in the drill bit.
Booker had seemed to pronounce the Obama effort to highlight unflattering aspects of Romney’s private equity background “nauseating,” but in the video, he suggested he was making a broader statement about negative campaigning...
Booker’s new line is a bit hard to swallow, though, because his “Meet the Press” comments clearly went beyond simply decrying the tone of the campaign. At one point, he offered a pointed defense of Romney’s Bain past, saying: “I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, it — they’ve done a lot to support businesses, to grow businesses. And this to me — I’m very uncomfortable.”...
Booker has throughout his political career cultivated and maintained close ties to Wall Street and affluent, investor class donors – people who, in many cases, believe the administration has declared war on their world and see the Bain attacks as an extension of that effort. Booker’s statewide political aspirations are no secret in New Jersey, and the presumption is that he’s eyeing a Senate run in 2014 (others have mentioned him for governor next year, but that’s less likely for a number of reasons).
Let's start here from Kornacki's other Booker MTP post:
It’s easy to forget, but before the world met Barack Obama in 2004, many believed that the first black president would be Booker. Armed with Stanford, Yale and Oxford degrees and all of the invaluable personal connections he forged at those institutions, he set out in the mid-1990s to craft a uniquely appealing political biography, swearing off lucrative job offers to move to Newark’s Central Ward and take up residence in public housing. Within a few years, he won a seat on the City Council, where he showed an early and consistent knack for self-generated publicity, most notably with a ten-day hunger strike in the summer of 1999.But there were more connections than "college buddies." Cory Booker's political rise is intertwined with the constellation of Right-Wing foundations, some you have probably even heard of like the Bradley Foundation and the Manhattan Institute. For example, where did Booker get much of his public policy agenda? Let's take a look at some of the investigative reporting done during Booker's first, unsuccessful, run for Mayor of Newark, from Glen Ford:
Cory Booker, Black mayoral candidate from the city's Central Ward, a cynical pretender who attempts to position himself as the common people's defender while locked in the deep embrace of institutes and foundations that bankroll virtually every assault on social and economic justice in America. His benefactors sponsor anti-affirmative action referendums, press for near-total disinvestment in the public sector, savage what's left of the social safety net, and are attempting to turn public education over to private suppliers. Along the way, Booker's soul mates are busy ravaging the environment and trampling civil liberties everywhere they find them.But Booker only took their money and media support not their policies right? Wrong.
Booker's anointment as a prince in the Hard Right pantheon is based on his support of public vouchers for private schools. This "movement," the creation of right-wing paymasters like the Bradley Foundation, of Milwaukee, and the Walton Family Foundation, Bentonville, Arkansas, hopes to drive a wedge between urban Blacks and the teachers unions. Without amicable relations between these two Democratic pillars, the Party, as we know it, is finished.Oh hi, Wisconsin. Booker then teamed up with Republican Mayor and future Chris Christie education secretary Bret Schundler.
Booker's pal Schundler knows his way around that kind of money. He used a big chunk of a $500,000 Walton Foundation gift to his Scholarships for Jersey City Children non-profit to pay for advertisements featuring himself, during an election campaign. Walton's executives didn't object. Apparently, what's good for their candidate is good for the kids.Now it was time for Booker to audition for those "elite donors" Kornacki references, and how!
After establishing their non-profit, the two Republicans and Booker went on a pilgrimage to Milwaukee, Mecca for school "choice" money, where the Bradley Foundation was concocting its newest invention: the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO).
Naturally, Schundler couldn't join. But Booker became a member of the board.
The Manhattan Institute, home of a repulsive roster of right-wing writers and speakers, and recipient of $250,000 in Bradley money in 2000, invited Booker to one of its power lunches, where he effortlessly dropped Right-speak code words.What many may be surprised to learn is that George F. Will endorsed Booker's candidacy - along with most Corporate Media.
"The old paradigm," he told the troglodytes, "was an entitlement program, in which large big city mayors controlled race-based machines.
"What that was really about was capturing big entitlements from the state and federal government and divvying them up among their cronies or among the people within their organizations to protect and preserve their organizations. It was about distributing wealth."
In just two sentences, Booker managed to stimulate the Right's erogenous zones by mentioning three of the phrases they most love to hate: "race-based," "entitlements," and "distributing wealth." This guy is good, very good. He speaks two distinct languages - one to the people he wants to elect him mayor of Newark, the other to the financially endowed, whose mission in life is to resist redistribution of wealth to race-based groups that think the poor could use some entitlements
The latest benediction of the Booker campaign comes from columnist George F. Will, the high priest of privatization. Will has been busy for over three decades planting land mines along every step of Black people's march toward equality. His endorsement should represent the kiss of death to Booker's candidacy. Indeed, Will, whose prescription for urban unemployment is that the jobless move somewhere else, came close to giving away the entire Booker game.Booker is backed by Wall Street (private equity) and his policies are crafted by reactionary Right-Wing think tanks all masked by progressive rhetoric like "reform." The real surprise is not that Booker attacked Obama for shining a light on private equity - it's that a man like Booker would even be asked to surrogate for the campaign.
"Booker's plans for Newark's renaissance," Will's March 17 column informs us, "are drawn from thinkers at the Democratic Leadership Council and the Manhattan Institute think tank, and from the experiences of others such as Stephen Goldsmith, former Republican mayor of Indianapolis, a pioneer of privatization and faith-based delivery of some government services, and John Norquist, current Democratic mayor of Milwaukee, which has one of the nation's most successful school-choice programs."
George F. Will gloats that the Booker campaign "has raised $1.5 million, partly through reform-minded supporters in New York financial circles." The venerable word "reform" is among the many progressive terms that have been stolen by the Hard Right. The people Will is really referring to are the same ultra-conservatives who fund the Manhattan, Heritage, Hoover and American Enterprise Institutes, as has been vastly documented. Cory Booker is just another of their projects, albeit an important one.
It's almost... nauseating.
Update 7:25 EST: Think Progress has put out a story on Booker and Bain:
Yesterday, Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker (D) attacked the Obama campaign for making an issue of Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital during an appearance on Meet the Press. While the progressive leader later backed off the criticisms, Republicans have been quick to highlight his comments as an attack against the idea that scrutiny of Mitt Romney’s record as a businessman is fair game.
A ThinkProgress examination of New Jersey campaign finance records for Booker’s first run for Mayor — back in 2002 — suggests a possible reason for his unease with attacks on Bain Capital and venture capital. They were among his earliest and most generous backers.
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.