Cory Booker Internet Startup May Go Belly Up

Is Cory Booker’s Waywire internet startup going haywire?

Until recently, most New Jersey voters were probably unaware of Booker’s web company which seems to be on its last legs, and the candidate for US Senate only recently included his participation in it on financial forms required of public officials. His role in the venture while serving as an elected official has prompted criticism from his rivals in the upcoming Democrat primary. It also suggests the possibility of influence pedaling.

The New York Times noted that the troubled video sharing company was “racing to find a buyer” before Booker exits while the New York Post reports that “Waywire will likely remain in business only until after Booker’s widely anticipated election to the US Senate so that he doesn’t look bad before the voters.”

Until he just stepped down, CNN President Jeff Zucker’s 15-year-old son was member of Waywire’s advisory board, a gig that even included stock options.

With cash he raised from several Silicon Valley movers and shakers such as Eric Schmidt and Jeff Weiner along with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Cory Booker co-founded the site last year while working full-time as the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. His stake is estimated to be worth between $1 to $5 million.

According to the Times, “That revelation, with just a week left in Mr. Booker’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate, shows how a few tech moguls and entrepreneurs, many of them also campaign donors, not only made a financial bet on the mayor’s political future but also provided the brainpower and financing to help create a company that could make him very rich.”

Booker, Waywire’s chairman, holds the largest equity stake in the company, which has raised eyebrows in terms of a possible conflict of interest for the would-be senator. The executive director of 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. People tend to prefer their political figures not to be cashing in on their positions of public trust.”

MSNBC added that in a scenario like this, “Depending on the company, the politician might garner “investments” because of his power in government, not actual interest in the company. Those ‘investments’ might look more like gifts — a backdoor for people who want to get around rules on gifts and campaign donations. And those investor/donors could wield special influence over the candidate.”

The primary election for US Senate is scheduled for August 13, followed by the general election on October 16. Gov. Chris Christie has taken a lot of heat for scheduling a stand-alone special election with a cost of about $24 million rather than holding the Senate election on a regular Election Day in November 2013 or 2014. Following the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg in June, Christie appointed former New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa as interim US Senator.

Do you think that Cory Booker’s internet startup is on the level?

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