Thursday, August 8, 2013

Money For Nothing: Corey Booker's "Start-Up"

I think this Times puff piece about Corey Booker was supposed to cause Jerseyites to admire his visionary tech-saavyiety (new word alert. Call the OED), but instead it reveals to how a handful of billionaires have used an internet start-up as a front to funnel money into Booker's bank account
Mr. Booker personally has obtained money for the start-up, called Waywire, from influential investors, including Eric E. Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman. A year after its debut, Waywire has already endured a round of layoffs and had just 2,207 visitors in June, according to Compete, a Web-tracking service. The company says it is still under development. 
Yet in a financial disclosure filed last month, Mr. Booker, 44, revealed that his stake in the company was worth $1 million to $5 million. Taken together, his other assets were worth no more than $730,000. 
That revelation, with just a week left in Mr. Booker’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate, shows how 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. 
Waywire has also provided jobs for associates of Mr. Booker: the son of a top campaign supporter and his social media consultant, who is now on his Senate campaign staff.
Waywire is a pathetic nonentity in the world of the internet. It's a video sharing platform. Wow! a video sharing platform? On the internet?! Althouse, who flagged some of the purple prose from the Times, brings us a dramatic report from the Waywire site:
Here's Waywire, by the way(wire), so check for yourself if it's haywire. You can't tell from one look how long these items have been at the top, but the timelessness of the subject matter makes me think: a long time. I mean: "7 Great Beatles Performances," "Top 15 Most Patriotic Songs," "30 Best Summer Songs"...? These seem to pre-date the Internet! But let's be fair and watch "Top News, August 8," which appears in the upper left-hand corner of the grid. It starts off (for me, now, anyway) with a grainy 38 seconds of a guy in a suit drawing all the pingpong balls for a set of Powerball numbers. (That fits with "betting on Booker.") It then proceeds to another video, a minute of Obama on Leno, then another (showing "Suffering in Syria"), then something about Egypt, something about Dustin Hoffman, something else about Egypt, and ending the run through the top news that you need to know today, August 8th, with "Toddler Beaten to Death by Foster Mother." We see her sad face in a thumbnail. 
Just to add to the appearance of impropriety, one of the board members is Andrew Zucker, a 15 year-old boy. Or, was. He has since resigned, no doubt because someone realized having Jeff Zucker's son on the board of Booker's nest egg would probably give rise to questions about the nexus between the MSM and the Democrat Party. 


As with John Edwards, who actively worked to separate the nonagenarian Bunnie Mellon from hundreds of thousands of dollars, all in the name of funding his political career, one has to ask how any of this is legal. Conservatives like Sarah Palin have to keep every receipt from Target, lest they be hounded for accepting a $50 "gift," while Dems can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars through cattle futures, bogus start-ups or simple "gifts." I'm starting to feel like there's a double standard at work here. 

Booker has been a real up-and-comer; a golden boy who waded into the corrupt world of Newark politics and seemed to be cleaning it up. Then again, there's apparently a lot of hometown griping that he hasn't done all that much to turn Newark around, except remove some of the more egregiously corrupt civil servants. Crime, poverty, unemployment are still sky-high, and indeed are unchanged from the beginning of his administration. Booker's run for the NJ Senate seat has been treated as a for-ordained glide path into national politics, but clearly there is much that is lurking under the surface for a determined foe or journalist to dig into.  

P.S. As much as we can be discomfited by Booker's arrangement with his donors, the fact is that people like him need to sustain themselves and raise a family. Human nature being what it is, you can't expect civil servants to live penuriously. No one likes to hear this, but most elective offices are severely underpaid. Senators and congressmen should be earning in the low seven figures, not the relatively small salaries they are actually paid. If Corey Booker was actually earning a salary commensurate with his skills and his job duties, he wouldn't have to enter into bogus "investments" funded by billionaires living 3,000 miles away from the Garden State. 

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