Yesterday morning, Newark mayor Cory Booker made headlines when he defended private equity firms and Bain Capital’s behavior against criticisms by the Obama campaign:

BOOKER: I have to just say from a very personal level, I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity. To me, we’re getting to a ridiculous point in America. Especially I know I live in a state where pension funds, unions, are investing 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 grow businesses. This to me is very uncomfortable.


Booker said his defense of private equity firms comes from a “very personal level.” And later that afternoon, the mayor did slightly retreat from his remarks. But there is perhaps another reason he jumped up to defend this industry.

Wall Street has been a huge backer of Booker’s campaigns. In 2006, “Lee Ainslie, the founder of hedge fund Maverick Capital Management LLC and a former protégé of Tiger Management LLC’s [Julian] Robertson; and D. Ian McKinnon, the managing partner of Ziff Brothers Investments,” maxed out in their donations to Booker’s campaign. Even putting aside direct donations to Booker’s campaign, Wall Street has also curried favor with the Newark Mayor through other routes. For instance, Bloomberg chronicled in 2010 how Booker worked to raise as much as $240 million from Wall Street and other American financial services hubs to invest in urban renewal in the city of Newark. By promising dollars for projects Booker backed, Wall Street has has possibly been able to exert a level of influence on him.

Robertson, the prominent Booker campaign supporter who helped finance a Newark Charter program on behalf of Booker, is a close ally to Mitt Romney. Robertson is a primary donor to Romney’s Super PAC, Restore Our Future. Robertson’s $1.8 million in contributions to Restore Our Future make him the second biggest contributor, next to Bob Perry.

Lee Ainslie, the other hedge fund manager that helped finance Booker’s career, has given $100,000 to Romney’s Super PAC.

Booker also serves on the Board of Advisers of the education advocacy organization Democrats For Education Reform (DFER), a group that has in the past advocated that charter schools fund political campaigns out of their per-pupil budget in order to advance education privatization. DFER’s board is packed with both private equity executives and hedge fund managers.

It’s very possible that Booker simply thinks that Bain and private equity are truly facing unfair criticism from the Obama campaign. But Booker’s comments should be viewed in light of his own affiliation with this industry as its titans push for their own agenda.

UPDATE: ThinkProgress notes that Booker received a total of $562,000 in campaign contributions from Bain Capital and others in from the finance industry for his race in 2002.

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  • BallerinaX

    Booker just recently was a speaker at Devos founded & ALEC member American Federation for Children that sprouts astroturf all over the country to push school vouchers and profitize K-12 education. So there’s that

    • CatKinNY

      Yeah, Booker is as much of a Democrat as is Michelle Rhee.

  • Mbfielder

    Now that explains it. I read that story this morning and wondered what was behind it. Thanks for digging this up! Like they say follow the money!

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  • Mitchellfreedman

    If only people like Obama, Booker, the Clintons and their corporate capital Democratic allies would return to their truly natural habitat, which is the Republican Party, we might actually have a labor oriented Democratic Party. We might also have a more balanced political discourse in our nation. The more we support Obama, Booker, the Clintons, et al., the more we dilute the pro-labor Democratic Party message. It’s why I am likely to vote for Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party in California this fall.

    • Bettyann Matkowski Frederick

      Waste your vote, that’s your prerogative. Until campaign reform really happens, nothing will change. Corporate takeover of our politics is here to stay, until and unless a viable, moderate, intelligent third party emerges.

    • CatKinNY

      The Republican party of northeastern, pro business, fiscal conservatives that you think they belong in would have rejected them for their failure to blame the poor for everything; no matter, that party is long gone. Todays GOP is a wild eyed hybrid of southern populism and western libertarianism. Ronald Reagan couldn’t win the Republican primary for mayor of a small midwestern town today; neither could George W Bush. The Evangelical wing is right about one thing, though; it is the End of Days – not for the world, just for the GOP. Unless they remake themselves completely within the next five years (and I don’t think that’s possible – they are completely dependant on a couple of constituencies that are utterly unmoored from reality and unwilling to compromise with anyone who doesn’t share their vision), they are finished as a national party within a decade or two at the most. At that point, we can have that balanced political discussion; it’ll just all take place within the Democratic party – kind of the way things used to be in those post war expansionist years, where we occasionally sent a Republican to the White House, but the Democrats owned both houses of congress. You know, back when we used to get things done, and the rich had very high tax rates to pay for what needed to be done. If we can avoid destroying the country for a little while longer, we just might be OK.

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  • Larry Krakow

    Another attempt by the right wing propaganda machine to twist the truth. Booker is yes, a friend of private equity and his words could have some damaging effect, but it should be fair game, because it is Romney’s sole claim to why he should be President. Is it the truth that he is not bringing up his term as Mass. governor? Why? Because his record stinks like rotten eggs. I may agree with some small talking points of ANY candidate, but I cannot agree with him that the people who are not in the top 1% should shoulder the burdens which is a pattern that he lived by during his stay in private equity. I did not see the inner workings of Bain, but from what I understand, Bain did not take the liability of the companies he drove to bankruptcy while raiding. Understood, some may not have been in profit or even above water, but to raid these companies and file bankruptcy in short order is simply robbery. If you take a company to bankruptcy, you should NOT reap windfall profits from doing so. The people on the other end who are owed money by that company are the very ones that SHOULD think about how Romney ripped them off by rushing these companies into bankruptcy. This includes suppliers are other businesses that provided benefits to these companies. They should realize why they were beaten out of the money they were rightfully owed. You or I could not easily do a bankruptcy and get the major corporations off our backs, but Bain did it like it was clockwork. Ask yourself Mr. Booker, how beneficial is that to society?

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  • Fmiata0

    You pay to play as the saying goes. Cory Booker could be the new poster guy for the Republicans self help ideology. Look everyone, the brother is down with the money men. How surprising. Old story. Marion Barry got his backing from the Rockerfellers in the launch of his political career. That worked out nicely,,,didn’t it.
    It is obvious that Booker has bigger plans for himself on the national scene. Wall Street investing in him now is smart and foreward looking. This is why they are in control…for the moment at least.

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  • Meclayton6

    actually D. Ian McKinnon is an awesome guy. He is very concerned with the growing income inequality gap and supports glass-steagle and further reform of wallstreet.

  • Msansevero

    Newark Mayor Cory Booker says that he conflated attacks by the right and the left, that they’re not comparable, and that the GOP has cynically manipulated his words on Meet the Press….Interview on Rachel Maddow…

    • Jim Cap

      Well, the old school tie still means a lot—particularly at an elite academy like Stanford. Rachel and Cory knew each other well at Stanford. He called her and asked to be on her show; it was a snow job. Booker used Rachel to get some “street cred” with liberals. Do they know his actual record? Does she?

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