The Pitfalls of Judging a Booker by His Cover

by Jim Geraghty

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

The Pitfalls of Judging a Booker by His Cover

Today is NOT Election Day in New Jersey; apparently the GOP sent out an erroneous Tweet Monday afternoon suggesting it was. Cue the cries of “voter suppression,” when it is in fact just New Jersey being New Jersey — it’s such a “special” special Senate election that it can’t even be held on a Tuesday.

In all likelihood, Cory Booker will win. One poll released Monday had Booker up 52 percent to 42 percent over Steve Lonegan; another one had him up 58 percent to 36 percent. Turnout should be pretty darn low.

Still, Cory Booker’s Senate campaign hasn’t been a cakewalk or a waltz. We’ve learned a police report contradicts key, dramatic details of his tale of a man dying in his arms; we’ve learned his tales of T-Bone are sketchy to the point of dubiousness; we’ve learned he violated his own law on vacant properties; we’ve learned the human props in the tales of his mayoral heroics don’t think he’s been a good mayor overall; we’ve learned he offers generic cut-and-paste responses to constituents . . . and that’s just Eliana Johnson’s work.

BookerFAIL takes the tale of the vacant property and puts together a devastating video on the “absentee landlord, absentee mayor”:

Lonegan’s closing argument has focused on the idea that Booker doesn’t actually live in the city.

In a press conference outside the Hawthorne Avenue residence where a Booker spokesman said the mayor has rented an apartment, Lonegan alleged that news stories and residents’ accounts indicate that Booker does not live in Newark.

“Who is Cory Booker?” Lonegan said. “Can you trust him? Where is he from? Where does he live? I propose that he doesn’t even live in Newark.”

A few weeks ago, Booker moved from the Hawthorne Avenue residence to a Longworth Street house that he owns, according to Griffis. His rent is paid through the end of the month, but he no longer lives on Hawthorne Avenue, Griffis said.

The Newark Police Department has rented a separate apartment in the Hawthorne Avenue house to use in its protection of the mayor, Police Director Samuel DeMaio said in a statement.

“There have been numerous threats on the mayor’s safety during the last seven years,” DeMaio said. “The mayor’s apartment on Hawthorne Avenue was located in a building with multiple units. The mayor rented a unit and the police department rented a separate unit to use in their protection of the mayor.”

Oh, and Booker regularly takes credit for massive charitable contributions that never actually happened:

Booker told the New York Times in March that he “kept very little” of the millions of dollars in speaking fees he has raked in over the past several years. “After Uncle Sam takes his share and after I’ve given away hundreds and hundreds of thousands, I’ve kept very little of it, if any,” he said.

The Newark Star-Ledger notes that Booker has earned $1.3 million on the speaking circuit since 1998, when he first took office, with the majority of that income coming in 2011 and 2012. According to Politico’s Maggie Haberman, however, Booker “gave about $150,000 total to charity over 14 years.”

That fact makes it tough to square the mayor’s claim that he has given away “hundreds and hundreds of thousands” of dollars of the money he’s made in speaking fees — after taxes. The only way for his claim to be true is if Booker indeed gave away several hundred thousands of dollars this year; that information will appear on his 2014 tax returns. Even that, though, would stretch the truth, as Booker claimed in March of this year — in the past tense — that he had already given away the money, presumably in years past.

As Eliana summed it up:

It’s astonishing that Booker is now 15 years into his political career, and, largely through anecdotes we are now coming to see are full of holes, has amassed dozens of high-profile backers in Silicon Valley and around the country who fell in love with his “story.” Thanks also in part to these emotional anecdotes, he is now and set to become the junior senator from New Jersey. Maybe one of these days a prominent national political reporter will ask him about what increasingly looks like his troubled relationship with the truth.

So if you know somebody in New Jersey . . . give ‘em a call today. Remind that person Wednesday is Election Day, and offer a thought or two about the Cory Booker that doesn’t get featured on the late-night shows.