Cory Booker’s emotional televised plea to “stop attacking private equity” may have been the single greatest service he could perform for the Romney campaign. His immediate attempt to revise his remarks on behalf of President Obama, for whom he is supposed to act as a surrogate, only highlighted his earlier insistence that the harsh campaign criticism of Bain Capital, which he specifically defended, is “nauseating.”
But the Newark Mayor’s feelings must be influenced by his own relationship with Wall Street, private equity, and Bain. America’s financial titans have been very, very good to him.
Although Booker undoubtedly knows that Bain is fair game – as he later acknowledged, going so far as to accuse Mitt Romney of “not being completely honest” about job creation there – his initial remarks were obviously sincere. He tried to equate negative advertising about Bain with the Republican disinterment of the embarrassing Reverend Jeremiah Wright, and went on to denounce the impact of “this unbelievable amount of campaign cash that’s eroding, in my opinion, the democracy, but more important, pulling our campaigns in the gutter.”
Even a cursory examination of Booker’s own political history shows, however, that he has never hesitated to use negative advertising against his opponents, when necessary – and that his own remarkable rise to power in Newark was funded by overwhelming infusions of cash to pay for those ads.
The first time he ran for Mayor and lost in 2002, Booker was heavily outspent by then-Mayor Sharpe James — later sent to prison in a federal corruption probe — but managed to raise and spend almost $2 million, much of which he spent on ads attacking the incumbent. Four years later, thanks in part to Street Fight, a superb documentary film about the first race that might be considered the longest negative ad in history, Booker won easily with a massive, $6 million warchest against a struggling opponent who raised less than $200,000.