Cory Booker has received a fair amount of criticism for his role as the co-founder of the video-sharing start-up called Waywire, which is well funded but recently went through some layoffs, has pretty low traffic (2,207 visitors in June), and lost a member of its board when Jeff Zucker’s 15-year-old son stepped down. Steve Lonegan, Booker’s opponent in the New Jersey Senate race, called his involvement in the company “sketchy,” and the New Republic deemed it “shady.” Because of that kind of criticism, Booker’s announcement Friday that he would leave the company’s board and donate his shares to charity doesn’t come as a big surprise. As TechCrunch notes, Booker had previously said he would step down if he’s elected. He didn’t specify which charity, but given that his recent tax returns showed a surprisingly low level of charitable giving through 2012, this should help.
The New York Times reported last month that Booker’s stake in Waywire was worth between $1 million and $5 million. “Taken together, his other assets were worth no more than $730,000.” That holding did not return any money through 2012, the year Booker helped found Waywire. “There was no income that was derived from the holding, and it wasn’t sold, therefore it doesn’t have to appear on an income tax form,” Booker spokesman Kevin Griffis told BuzzFeed.
Booker’s campaign said he had done some big financial transactions in 2013, namely donating money to charity, following the release of 15 years of tax returns that showed lower donations than he’s previously touted. Booker said in March he had “kept very little … if any” of the money he made from speaking. Booker’s tax returns show that since 2000, he has made $1,317,715 after taxes just in speaking fees. Over the same period, he gave $149,347 to charity. BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer elaborates: “Booker’s campaign said in March that he has given roughly $620,000 in charitable donations since 2009 — an aide accounted for the difference with 2013 giving, which he said figures so far at $469,906.”
Just by the way, Booker made an average of $261,476 over the fifteen years for which he released tax returns, mostly from speaking fees, and paid an average tax rate of 26.29 percent, his returns showed. As for Waywire, TechCrunch predicted that, with Booker gone and a new CEO coming in, it will likely launch its product in the next few months. It’ll be interesting to see what all this fuss has been about.