- Former mayor of Newark, New Jersey
- Current U.S. Senator from New Jersey
- Member of the Congressional Black Caucus
- Supports comprehensive immigration reform
See also: Democratic Party Congressional Black Caucus
Cory Booker was born on April 27, 1969 in Washington, DC. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Stanford University in 1991, a master's degree in sociology from Stanford in 1992, and a JD from Yale Law School in 1997. Booker then served on the Newark (New Jersey) City Council from 1998 until 2002, at which time he ran for mayor of Newark but lost the Democratic primary to the incumbent, Sharpe James. In 2001, Booker began a five-year stint working for the Jersey-based law firm of Trenk DiPasquale. He left the firm in 2006 when he was elected mayor of Newark, an office he went on to hold for seven years. On October 16, 2013, Booker won a special election for the newly vacant U.S. Senate seat that Frank Lautenberg had occupied until his death four months earlier. Booker continues to serve in that post and is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
During Booker's tenure as mayor of Newark, the city experienced stratospheric levels of crime, poverty, and corruption. Most notably, Booker was the board chairman of the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation, a nonprofit group that was paid more than $10 million annually to run the city's water infrastructure. When the state comptroller and the Newark Star-Ledger investigated Watershed in 2013-14, they discovered that it was routinely spending money in a profligate manner, awarding no-bid contracts to friends and cronies of the mayor, reaping the benefits of no-bid contracts awarded by the city of Newark, and using taxpayer money as a giant slush fund—at a time when budget shortfalls were forcing the city to lay off police officers and to depend, for its very solvency, upon tens of millions of dollars per year in state aid. Some lowlights:
- Watershed's executive director, Linda Watkins-Brashear, was formerly a donor and volunteer for Booker's mayoral campaigns. During her tenure with Watershed, she wrote over 60 unauthorized checks to herself and paid a non-employee more than $23,000 for running various mundane errands.
- When Watkins-Brashear announced in 2006 that she was leaving Watershed, she received a $209,097 severance package. But she then continued to work there until March 2013, at which time she received yet another severance package, of $453,805. All told, Watkins-Brashear paid herself $1.98 million during her last seven years at Watershed, though her official cumulative salary for that period amounted to just $1.16 million.
- Watershed paid $15,000 to the father of one of its board members for a make-work “job,” and $16,000 to an interior-decorating firm owned by Watkins-Brashear’s ex-husband.
- Elnardo Webster—Booker's longtime friend, former campaign treasurer, and former law partner at Trenk DiPasquale—pocketed more than $1 million for his work as Watershed's “counsel” during 2007-11. But neither he nor Watershed could ever produce the contract that supposedly authorized his services for the corporation.
- During his tenure with Watershed, Webster received a 30-year tax abatement on a Newark office building that he owned.
- A vendor who met Linda Watkins-Brashear while working on a political campaign, heard that Watershed was handing out no-bid contracts for all manner of services. To cash in on that practice, in 2008 the vendor created a landscaping company—though he had never previously done such work—and obtained a contract from Watershed worth almost $390,000. He never even purchased any landscaping equipment until after he had secured the contract.
When the Newark City Council formed a committee in January 2012 to investigate Watershed’s spending, Elnardo Webster filed an injunction in court to shut down the probe. When the City Council refused to approve a new contract for Watershed in July 2012, Mayor Booker issued an executive order authorizing emergency contracts that enabled it to operate without Council approval. When the City Council unanimously approved a motion to dissolve Watershed and place the city in charge of it, Booker defeated the measure in court. And in October 2012, the mayor issued yet another executive order authorizing the city’s contract with Watershed to continue.
Meanwhile, from 2006-11 Booker received $698,000 in payouts from Trenk DiPasquale—income that the mayor failed to disclose on his Senate candidacy filings in 2013. When these funds came to light later that year, Booker explained that the money derived from a “confidential” agreement he had made with the firm years earlier. He offered three different public explanations of what the money was for: (a) services rendered, (b) an equity interest, and (c) a separation agreement for work he had performed before becoming mayor.
Booker's prevarications have extended also to matters beyond finances. Indeed he has earned a reputation for repeatedly telling emotionally charged, highly detailed, and self-serving yet fictitious personal anecdotes during his political speeches. Click here for details.
In 2012 Booker conceived of a media startup company designed to give Newark teenagers an opportunity to create and post online videos about news stories which they deemed important, and to thereby join “the national conversation” and become potential “voices of change” in their communities. To bring Booker's vision to fruition, the mayor's friends in Silicon Valley created the video-sharing website Waywire, whose largest shareholder (with $1 million to $5 million worth of shares) was Booker himself. Melanie Sloan, executive director of the left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, noted that “if you’re getting a large percentage just because you’re a well-known political figure, that’s a little bit problematic” because “people tend to prefer their political figures not to be cashing in on their positions of public trust.” When critics speculated that Booker's new venture might distract him from his political duties, Waywire co-founder Sarah Ross assured that the mayor's only real task was to serve as Waywire's “inspiration architect.”
In June 2013, Booker was disturbed by a Supreme Court ruling that struck down a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). That provision had required mainly Southern states to undergo—based on the anachronistic presumption of their continuing racist tendencies—special federal scrutiny before they could be permitted to change their election laws in any way (e.g., by instituting Voter ID requirements or reconfiguring their voting districts). “I think discrimination is still real and evident in voting in ... [how] district lines are drawn or where they put polling places,” said Booker, “and I think there's still a need, frankly, for vigilance and protections under the law.” In June 2015, Booker joined a number of other U.S. senators in introducing legislation to restore the VRA provision in question.
Among the issues on which Booker has been most outspoken is immigration. He supports the passage of the DREAM Act and strongly favors a pathway-to-citizenship for the millions of illegal aliens currently residing in the U.S. In December 2013, Booker joined fellow New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez in a 24-hour fast designed to draw attention to the need for comprehensive immigration reform. During his tenure as Newark mayor, Booker refused to allow his city's police department to “play an I.N.S. function” and enforce immigration laws. “We are not to be running around doing interrogations about whether someone is documented or not,” said Booker.
In January 2017, Booker testified against Republican Senator Jeff Sessions during the latter's confirmation hearing for the post of U.S. Attorney General, thereby marking the first time in Senate history that a sitting senator had testified against another sitting senator for a Cabinet post during a confirmation process. "I do not take lightly the decision to testify against a Senate colleague," said Booker. "But the immense powers of the attorney general combined with the deeply troubling views of this nominee is a call to conscience.... This is one of the more consequential appointments in American history right now given the state of a lot of our challenges we have with our policing, a lot of challenges we have with race relations, gay and lesbian relations." Booker characterized Sessions' track record as "concerning in a number of ways," citing specifically his: (a) opposition to criminal-justice reform -- reform founded on the premise that the penalties for certain supposedly "nonviolent" crimes such as drug trafficking should be lightened, even retroactively, so as to address the problem of "mass incarceration" that allegedly targets nonwhites in an unfair manner; (b) his opposition to a comprehensive immigration reform plan that would grant amnesty and a path-to-citizenship to countless millions of illegal aliens residing in the United States; (c) his criticism of the Voting Rights Act (specifically, a VRA provision -- struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013 -- that designated which parts of the country needed to have any proposed changes to their election laws pre-cleared by the federal government; and (d) his "failure to defend the civil rights of women, minorities, and LGBT Americans."
Booker's testimony against Sessions included a number of remarks wherein he made clear his own fervent belief that America is a nation replete with racism, discrimination, and injustice against nonwhites. Some excerpts:
- "America was founded heralding not law and order, but justice for all. And critical to that is equal justice under the law. Law and order without justice is unobtainable, they are inextricably tied together. If there is no justice, there is no peace."
- "His [Sessions'] record indicates that at a time when even the FBI director is speaking out about implicit racial bias in policing and the need to address it; at a time when the last two Attorneys General [Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch] have taken steps to fix our broken criminal justice system; and at a time when the Justice Department he would lead has uncovered systemic abuses in police departments all over the United States including Ferguson, including Newark; Senator Sessions would not continue to lead urgently needed change."
- "Challenges of race in America cannot be addressed if we refuse to confront them. Persistent biases cannot be defeated unless we combat them. The arc of the universe does not just naturally curve toward justice – we must bend it."
When President Donald Trump announced in December 2017 that the U.S. would be relocating its diplomatic embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and that it recognized that city as Israel's capital, Booker objected, saying that any decision about the future of either the capital or the embassy should be “part of a larger peace process.” “It should be part of negotiations for eventual final status,” he added. “We need to be working towards peace in that region.”
For an overview of Booker's positions and voting record on a variety of additional key issues, click here.
 For three consecutive years during which he served as Newark mayor, Booker claimed on his tax returns that he had “materially participated in the operation” of the Trenk DiPasquale firm, which conducted millions of dollars worth of business with the city. If Booker's claim was true, it would have constituted an egregiuos violation of ethical standards by a government official. Booker spokesman Kevin Griffis, however, told the press that Booker was not obligated to disclose on his Senate financial-disclosure form the payments he had received from Trenk DiPasquale, because (according to Griffis) the money was a return on equity rather than “compensation for services rendered.” But as National Review Online notes, “If that is true, then the mayor’s tax returns are fraudulent.”