As the democratic race for the 2020 nomination continues to dwindle, one of its biggest names is facing new criticisms regarding his possible involvement in a major embezzlement scandal back home in New Jersey.
Cory Booker, who has been a mid-tier candidate in this latest race for the White House, has now been connected to a multi-million dollar series of scams perpetrated by friends and colleagues of his.
Months after Cory Booker took office as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, he cleared the way for his former campaign treasurer and law partner Elnardo Webster to wield influence at the nonprofit that supplied water to the city.
Over the next seven years, Booker’s allies and others squandered millions of dollars in public money at the nonprofit through kickbacks and embezzlement, bogus contracts, risky investments and excessive pay, according to investigations, criminal trials and federal testimony. The organization ultimately was dissolved, nine employees and contractors were indicted and city money was wasted that could have helped fix some of Newark’s aging water infrastructure.
Booker has long denied any direct involvement in the ongoing scandal, but research shows that his hands are not entirely clean by any means.
There is no evidence Booker received any personal financial benefit, but he and his city council allies received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the group’s employees and contractors. Booker’s former law firm — which was paying him under a still-confidential buyout agreement — was paid by the nonprofit for services that would later be criticized as inadequate.
Soon after Booker became mayor, Webster, his former campaign aide and law partner, authored a November 2006 memo recommending new watershed board members. The memo, written on law firm letterhead that still listed Booker as a partner, advised the mayor to appoint a businessman who had played college football with Webster. Also, the son of a campaign adviser and others.
Booker’s appointments followed many of Webster’s recommendations. The new board hired Webster and the Trenk DiPasquale law firm to serve as the watershed’s general counsel. The arrangement paid Webster $225 per hour and generated more than $1 million in legal fees over five years.
Booker had left the law firm months before its hiring, saying he wanted to avoid any conflicts as mayor. But he was still paid up to $150,000 annually under the buyout agreement.
Cory Booker is currently polling at 2.4% nationally, according to Real Clear Politics.
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