The upper-echelon candidates in the Democrat primary haven’t had much to worry about from Sen. Cory Booker so far. The New Jersey lawmaker hasn’t come in above 3 percent in any poll since April and his performance on the campaign trail hasn’t exactly inspired confidence.
If he ever manages to leap to the top of the polls, however, there’s one thing that the rest of the Democratic field can point to: the fact that almost no other candidate is as tied to Wall Street as Booker is.
Yes, Booker had promised not to take any corporate PAC money back in February of 2018:
I heard from constituents today asking about corporate PAC contributions. I’m joining several of my colleagues & no longer accepting these contributions. Our campaign finance system is broken. I thank @StopBigMoney for their work—it’s time to pass campaign finance reform.
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) February 14, 2018
But those are corporate committees, not individual people. Corporate individuals still feel some kinship with Booker. Among them is former Goldman Sachs executive Donald Mullen Jr., who has donated $5,400 to Booker’s campaign.
If you don’t know who Mullen is, you may remember the book “The Big Short” or the movie it inspired. The basic premise is that a bunch of Wall Street-types figured out how to profit off of the 2008 financial collapse by betting against the bad housing loans that would eventually precipitate it.
“As a senior mortgage executive at Goldman, Mullen was actively engaged in derivative trades that became known as ‘the big short.’ Goldman constructed those collateralized debt obligations in 2007 to profit from declines in the value of subprime mortgage bonds,” Reuters reported in 2012 when Mullen retired.
“Mullen was one of a handful of senior Goldman executives whose emails were publicly released by a Senate committee that investigated Goldman’s actions leading up to the financial crisis.”
“Sounds like we will make some serious money,” Mullen said in the most infamous of his emails, fired off after some of the debt that Goldman had shorted was downgraded by a ratings service.
In retirement, Mullen hasn’t lost his Wall Street reputation.
“Since leaving Goldman Sachs in 2012, Mullen has made millions of dollars as the chief executive officer and co-founder of the real estate firm Pretium Partners LLC. The hedge fund was set up to buy thousands of homes that were foreclosed upon after the housing crisis and then renting them out,” The Washington Free Beacon, who broke the news about Mullen’s donation to Booker, reported Thursday.
This isn’t the first time that a donation from Mullen has attracted negative attention.
“Failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received scrutiny in 2015 after her super PAC, Priorities USA, accepted a $100,000 donation from Mullen. This was the largest single contribution Mullen made at the time to any soft money organization,” The Free Beacon noted.
The contribution is especially problematic for Booker given his attempt to distance himself from the Wall Street milieu. OpenSecrets.org data shows that during the 2014 election cycle, the New Jersey senator took in more than any other candidate from the securities and investment industry — over $2.2 million. Republican Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell was a distant second with roughly $1.7 million in donations.
Furthermore, before he pledged not to take money from corporate PACs, NJ.com found that PAC money accounted for nearly two-thirds of the $505,478 he had raised for his 2020 senate re-election bid.
The Booker campaign did not respond to a request for comment from The Free Beacon.
Assuming that Booker ever gets it together and manages to find the charisma necessary to make him a legitimate candidate, his Wall Street ties will still be an anchor on his campaign. Ties to the financial industry are unpopular in any year, especially in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
For those who got burned by the financial crisis, the fact that Cory Booker is taking donations from one of the guys who managed to profit off of it through “the big short” isn’t a good look, especially after he promised not to take corporate money. If Booker can’t muster enough sense to send the Mullen donation back, it’s going to be a long 2019 for his campaign.
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