NJ Senate candidate Cory Booker releases tax returns

September 7, 2013 5:58:09 AM PDT
Mayor Cory Booker is stepping down from the board of an Internet startup he helped found, his campaign said Friday as it provided tax returns showing his income skyrocketed along with his national profile.

Booker, the Democrat who is running for U.S. Senate, said Friday he was leaving the board of Waywire and will donate his company shares to charity. Booker's stake in the firm is worth $1 million to $5 million, according to Senate financial disclosure forms Booker's campaign filed in July.

Booker had come under fire for his large stake in the Silicon Valley company, which helps people curate videos they find on the Internet and was backed by influential investors including Google's Eric Schmidt.

Also Friday, Booker's campaign released 15 years of his tax returns that trace his path from Yale Law School graduate making $40,701 as a Newark city councilor in 1998 to a coveted national speaker raking in $472,571 last year.

In all, Booker made $4 million in the past 15 years and paid more than $1 million in taxes. Booker's stake in the company did not appear on his taxes because he earned no income from it, said Booker spokesman Kevin Griffis.

The biggest chunk of Booker's income comes from his speaking engagements. With his soaring oratory and sermon-like talks, Booker is in demand on the lecture circuit, where he has made about $1.3 million, almost all of it from 2009 to 2012.

Booker has said the speaking gigs weren't especially lucrative, because of income taxes and his penchant for charitable giving. "After Uncle Sam takes his share and after I've given away hundreds and hundreds of thousands, I've kept very little of it, if any," he told The New York Times earlier this year.

On his tax returns, Booker only claimed about $149,000 in charitable deductions over 15 years. Most of his giving has come this year; Booker's campaign said he has donated $469,906 to charity in 2013.

Booker made the most money speaking in 2011, netting $406,304. That was the year after a $100 million gift to the Newark schools from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg helped Booker leverage his stewardship of a city of 280,000 residents into a national platform.

According to Booker's Senate disclosure forms, he has addressed - and been paid at least $5,000 by - varied organizations including Ohio State University; the Weinstein JCC in Richmond, Va.; the Association of Perioperative Nurses; and the Menlo Park, Calif., law firm Sidney Austin.

Booker's mayoral salary has fluctuated during his seven years in office, averaging about $140,000 a year.

Booker also has also netted nearly $690,000 in payouts from a law firm he helped found. The payouts are part of an agreement Booker made with the firm when he left it to become mayor, Griffis said.

During his five years at the firm - Trenk, DiPasquale - Booker earned $45,924 in profit on top of his salary. A $37,500 payout from the firm in 2012 was added to Booker's financial disclosure Friday.

Booker's campaign would not allow the tax returns to be photographed, disseminated or copied. Copies were given to reporters in a hotel conference room and were required to be given back three hours later.

Booker's Republican challenger, Steve Lonegan, has been hounding Booker to release his tax returns. Lonegan has not during his Senate campaign.

"Cory Booker has now made an historic gesture of transparency, and we challenge Steve Lonegan to do the same," said Booker campaign manager Addisu Demissie.

Lonegan did not immediately return a request for comment.

Lonegan filed an open records lawsuit against Newark on Thursday, claiming it did not provide him with audits, travel expenses and other financial disclosures from Booker and other members of his city hall staff.

Booker's city spokesman said the mayor does not have a city credit card and does not take reimbursements.

Booker claimed few to no deductions for travel and meals on his tax returns.

The returns show Booker made about $100,000 from stock sales in the past 15 years. He's also had some flubs, losing about $5,000 on IBM stock. Booker's parents were executives at the company.

According to his Senate forms, Booker holds shares of companies including Facebook, Netflix, Nike and eBay.

In more recent years, Booker lists his home address as his campaign office or City Hall. Filings show he started paying real estate taxes on a home in 2010.


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