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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

 
Booker and the big money geeks

by digby

They're not even trying to hide their corruption anymore:
The conference room in the Mountain View, Calif., headquarters of LinkedIn was packed with the stars of Silicon Valley. Top executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter gathered around a table; the billionaire Sean Parker looked on from a back row. The guest of honor: Cory A. Booker, the mayor of Newark.

The stated purpose of the gathering was to give Mr. Booker, already a Twitter fanatic, a seminar on social-networking technologies. But hanging in the air was an electrifying sense of being in the presence of an ascendant politician they believed understood the potential of the new digital world they were shaping.

“He’s part of this tide,” said Gina Bianchini, an entrepreneur who was at the meeting, in May 2009. “It feels like he’s one of us.”

Two and a half years later, some of those same Silicon Valley leaders joined forces again on Mr. Booker’s behalf. But this time, their efforts resulted in giving Mr. Booker, until then an admired outsider, the equivalent of full-fledged membership in their elite circle: an Internet start-up of his own.

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.

The company has a goal: making it easy to “collect, curate and share” videos from across the Web. But much about its operations and Mr. Booker’s role as chairman appears ill defined.

Mr. Booker declined to answer questions about the details of Waywire’s finances, including what percentage of the company he currently owns. A spokesman said Mr. Booker had invested some of his own money in the company but refused to say how much.

Though his involvement in Waywire has been public since July 2012, Mr. Booker did not disclose his ownership interest in the company on his financial report filed with the city and only recently amended the federal form he filed as a candidate for the Senate to reflect his ownership. The spokesman, James Allen, said that the city form was amended Tuesday.
In the past politicians had the good taste to at least be out of office before they accepted such lucrative sinecures. Today they're just taking their bribes right out in the open and calling themselves "entrepreneurs."

New Jersey Democrats don't have to vote for Corey Booker. They have a number of other much better options, especially this fellow, Rush Holt.

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