Will Silicon Valley Fail Cory Booker This Time?

Written by Ann Brown
Cory Booker
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks to voters during a campaign stop, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Senator-turned-presidential candidate Cory Booker has had a long love affair with Silicon Valley. Tech entrepreneurs have financially backed his various efforts over the years. But now that Booker has tossed his hat in the 2020 elections, his Silicon Valley backing may not be as strong.

“If any Democratic presidential candidate has tapped into the Silicon Valley zeitgeist over their careers, it is Cory Booker. And in 2019, that could be as much a political liability as it is a financial asset,” Recode reported.

The Stanford grad was once “the darling of the tech industry.”

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“The presidential candidate has collected half a million dollars from the internet industry over his five years in the Senate, from people like LinkedIn’s Hoffman, Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Emerson Collective founder Laurene Powell Jobs, and early Facebook exec Sean Parker,” Recode reported.

“Cory Booker is the Manchurian candidate of Silicon Valley. I believe they have cultivated him and groomed him,” said Jamarlin Martin, a 41-year-old political activist who runs a collection of digital media sites serving Black audiences. “He’s going to run into problems as the public becomes more aware that he’s in bed with our generation’s Big Tobacco.”

Booker’s relationship with Silicon Valley started with  a startup he co-founded, a video company called Waywire. After a controversy during his 2013 Senate race when opponents said his company ownership was a conflict of interest. (Booker went on to donate his shares.)

Still, Silicon Valley was still on Booker’s side. In 2010, Booker got Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to invest $100 million into Newark schools.

But now as Booker has started campaigning for 2020, Silicon Valley hasn’t chipped in. In fact, he may not be their number one choice.

Former eBay CEO John Donahoe met with Booker and said he’s “impressed”  but as for an endorsement: “It’s way too early.”

Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr said through a spokesperson, “It’s too early in the process for him to have a sense of who he will support.”

Financial backing might be hard to come by. You may recall, Booker, along with Kamala Harris vowed to not take corporate PAC contributions.

“I heard from constituents today asking about corporate PAC contributions. I’m joining several of my colleagues & no longer accepting these contributions,” Booker (D-N.J.) tweeted in last February. “Our campaign finance system is broken.”

This was a major change for Booker, who has received many donations prior to this from corporations.

“From the time he first ran for Senate in a 2013 special election, Booker has received more than $2.6 million from the securities and investment industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog organization. Just $62,200 of that came from PACs, while the rest came from individual donors. Lawyers and law firms gave him even more, about $2.8 million — again, the vast majority from individuals,” Politico reported.

And in 2013 Booker got backing from a super PAC funded by a few wealthy donors, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Then for Booker’s first reelection campaign in 2014, he was the biggest recipient of financial sector contributions, according to CNBC.