Booker Start-up Connected to CNN's Zucker Under Scrutiny

Booker Start-up Connected to CNN's Zucker Under Scrutiny

Because a media that should be in competition with one another instead protects one another, there is no mention of CNN chief Jeff Zucker’s connection to Cory Booker’s online start up in this MSNBC piece. But when you have MSNBC fretting about the stench around a company attached to a Democrat rising star, it is worthy of note:

If Aaron Sorkin were to craft a movie about Newark Mayor Cory Booker, you can bet that Waywire, Booker’s controversial technology start-up, would provide a cautionary tale for the mayor’s voracious ambition.

The company is an allegory for Booker’s style–audacious, well-connected and promising “revolutionary” change; yet prone to a certain vagueness and affinity for what we might call the politics of the donor class.

The New York Times renewed the spotlight on Waywire this week, questioning how a full-time mayor managed to launch an online video company, raise investments from the Oprah’s and Google’s of the world, and amass a potentially multi-million dollar stake. Booker’s opponents, in both parties, are seizing on the story to attack him, and it could persist through the general election. …

It’s illegal to give a candidate $100,000 for his campaign, for example, because that much direct cash could make the candidate overly indebted to one person – or risk appearing too indebted. …

But what about “giving” a candidate a large “investment” in his company?

What the article fails to note, though, is that this kind of chicanery can work both ways.

Waywire can not only receive infusions of cash from the world’s Googles and Oprahs; it can also offer stock options and seats on boards to the 14-year-old sons of cable news network chiefs — which is exactly the position CNN’s Jeff Zucker is in.

Though the recent news coverage brought about young Zucker’s resignation, the conflict of interest here stinks, especially when CNN frequently covers Booker, and will throughout his ambitious political career.

The New York Times reports today (also without mentioning Zucker’s connection) that Waywire was created while Booker was mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and that he was unable to find a buyer because no one was interested in the site:

Others aware of Waywire’s efforts to find a buyer, who uniformly insisted on anonymity to avoid jeopardizing their relationships in the industry and with Mr. Booker, said they saw little that was worth buying.

Mr. Booker amended his personal financial disclosures, required of Senate candidates, in July to reflect his stake in Waywire, saying its omission from an earlier filing was inadvertent. He valued his holding at $1 million to $5 million.

Two people briefed on the company’s finances said it was unlikely Waywire could be sold for enough to return money to its investors.

The question remains: Where did all the money go?

Look at Waywire. Does this look like a vital online startup with $1.75 millionbehind it? Or does it look like a placeholder, a truck stop in themiddle of nowhere; a project that would get a C+ in a community college final?


Follow  John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC