WASHINGTON -- New Jersey Republican Steve Lonegan blasted Cory Booker today over his ties to Silicon Valley executives who provided financial support for a private Booker venture that could make the Newark mayor rich, according to a New York Times story published Tuesday.
"If Cory Booker is elected, California will have a third senator, because Booker will be beholden to the Silicon Valley billionaires who funded his 'start-up' business," said a Lonegan release, issued after a New York City press conference. "Additionally, campaign donations were being raised at the same time as funding for Cory Booker's business. This is sketchy, to say the least."
Lonegan is the heavy favorite to win the GOP Senate nomination and, in all likelihood, would face Booker in the Senate general election (Booker is favored in the Democratic primary).
Lonegan said the Times report raises questions about whether Booker would be beholden to the big tech firms that collect data and communications information.
At issue is Booker's ownership stake in a company called Waywire, started last year with financial support from Silicon Valley moguls including Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, according to the Times. Booker's share in company is worth $1 million to $5 million, according to financial disclosure forms.
It had been well-reported that tech executives have backed Booker's political campaigns, but this story shows that they have also aided him in a personal venture.
Waywire is a start-up that aims to curate videos from across the Web. Booker did not disclose his ownership share in the company in his Newark financial reports and only this week amended his federal disclosure form to reflect his ownership, the Times reported.
A Booker spokesman, however, said the mayor's involvement with Waywire was well known. It was public as early as July 2012, the Times wrote, though it was not clear then that Booker was an owner.
"This is old news – with more than 100 stories having been written about it. Everybody knows that Mayor Booker is fascinated with technology and what it can do to empower real people," said Booker campaign spokesman Kevin Griffis. "He invested in an idea and helped get a business off the ground, and he’s never had any day-to-day responsibilities with the firm."
The Times said Booker would not reveal how much of the company he owns. He told the paper that his job was to "put it into motion" when the company launched in early 2012, and then "get out of the way."
The company had employed relatives of some of Booker's donors and aides, but had to lay-off 2,207 people in June, the Times wrote.
Booker is running against U.S. Reps. Rush Holt and Frank Pallone and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver in the Democratic primary. Lonegan faces physician Alieta Eck in the GOP race.
The primary is Aug. 13, and the general election is Oct. 16.