a few days the voters of overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic Newark,
New Jersey, will either blunt the Hard Right’s first serious drive
for urban political power, in blackface, or be overwhelmed by
it. Cory Booker, the 32 year-old first term councilman whose
short career embodies the betrayal of Black America’s historical
sacrifices and dreams, is riding a wave of ultra-conservative
cash and corporate media sponsorship. If he defeats 16-year incumbent
Sharpe James and seizes control of City Hall on May 14, the true
victors will be the financiers of the Bradley and Walton foundations
and their think tanks. The Manhattan Institute is chief among
entire campaign platform is to say I'm part of a right-wing
conspiracy," Booker complained to his friendly local newspaper,
the Star Ledger, May 1. If only that were true. In reality,
it has been only recently that Booker’s shameless bid to establish
a rightwing political base in a majority Black city has received
any media exposure. It has also been in recent weeks that Booker’s
ties to the Hard Right became a focus of Sharpe James’ re-election
four-term mayor’s early decision to mount a straightforward, run-on-the-record
campaign is understandable. No established Black, big city administration
had ever faced a concerted effort
by African America’s historical enemies to cultivate and lavish
support on a Black, stealth opposition. These are uncharted waters
for both Mayor James and the Bradley Foundation. The foundation
is the master of the house in Milwaukee and bankroller of the
Black Alliance for Educational Options, a pro-private school voucher
outfit. Its board includes Cory Booker and a sleazy cast of Republicans,
professional rightwing propagandists, and political hustlers.
Bradley Foundation has spent at least $365 million since 1985
to create and finance rightwing “movements” opposed to affirmative
action, civil liberties and the entire historic Black political
agenda. Much of the organizational and public relations work
is carried out by think tanks supported by Bradley, the Walton
Family Foundation, the Olin Foundation, the Scaife Foundation,
and the rest of the rich crowd that brought us Ronald Reagan’s
is where Cory Booker acquired both his ideas and national funding
network. The Right decided to expand upon its previous, limited
Black Strategy of providing money and public relations support
to obscure, conservative Black “intellectuals.” Instead, they
charged directly into intra-Black electoral politics, alien territory
in which they had never scored a single success. Booker, with
his youth and Yale law degree, presented himself as the perfect
folks love a success story. They have fought for so long to see
credentialed young members of the race rise upwards. How were
they to suspect that Booker is, as Harvard political science professor
Martin Kilson describes him, a “Black Trojan Horse for the Republican
right wing”? (See Dr. Kilson’s analysis in the Guest Commentator
section of this issue.)
major media pretended to know nothing of Booker’s associations.
The evidence was everywhere on the public record as the Hard Right
national organizations loudly championed him as a “New Black leader.”
recently as April 7, in a profile of the candidates, the Star
Ledger’s Tom Moran ignored the ideological character of Booker’s
support. His keen interest was focused on Booker’s show business
admirers: “You've raised large sums of money from outside Newark,
some from celebrities, such as Barbra Streisand. Why is that?”
question and the answer were a total waste of space. The same
reporter handled Mayor James’ profile, which appeared in the April
“Your opponent has raised much of his money from outside Newark.
He says there are no strings attached. What do you think?”
James: “It would be totally irresponsible to suggest that an individual
can receive $3 million from Arkansas, Colorado, Wall Street and
renowned Republicans — people who don’t know Mr. Cory Booker personally,
and don’t know the city of Newark — without expecting something
in return. Clearly, they want control of the city of Newark.
They want contracts. They want business. They want favors.”
this kind of thin political dialogue, the Hard Right wins. Everybody
takes money from businessmen. All businessmen want contracts
and favors. That’s politics as usual, and the public knows it.
What’s newsworthy is the political coloration of the funding.
Booker’s ultra-conservative backers don’t covet contracts or the
usual favors from Newark’s City Hall. They want to use the city
as a pulpit and laboratory for their right wing ideas and programs.
The Bradley Foundation is attempting to do this in Milwaukee,
but Milwaukee doesn’t have a Black majority.
sugar daddies need a Black face mouthing their words, in a majority
Black city. They want a Black political platform from which to
attack national African American leadership and destroy what’s
left of the Democratic Party coalition. Their front man is Cory
Booker, and the urban issue with most financial backing is school
is anything but politics as usual. The Sharpe James campaign
did not realize what it was up against.
Star Ledger and the New York Times framed the mayoral race as
a contest between an old guard politician and a young reformer.
This was precisely the spin the right wing’s public relations
specialists hoped for. Yes, Booker was awash in money, but the
two papers had no interest in where it came from. They were effectively
acting as appendages of the Booker-Bradley campaign.
Black Commentator has attempted to play a role in alerting Newark’s
electorate and progressive forces, nationally, to the grave danger
Booker’s Hard Right-inspired campaign represents. Part of that
role is confronting the corporate media.
of our April 5 issue and its featured article, Fruit of the Poisoned
Tree: The Hard Right’s Campaign to Capture Newark NJ, was sent
to virtually the entire Star Ledger news department, and to the
National Alliance of Black Journalists’ members working at the
paper. We knew the article had been widely read among the staff.
On April 16, we sent emails to writers and editors:
Star Ledger staff members:
we at The Black Commentator have missed some important elements
your coverage of the current mayoral campaign. Nowhere
within your pages have we found even a hint of the massive support
that far-right institutions and individuals have lavished on
Cory Booker. The Star Ledger has quite enough resources
to connect Booker's campaign to the same circles and individuals
that back private school vouchers and the entire universe of
right-wing "movements." You could follow the
giant footprints. You choose not to.
George F. Will's brazen March 17 incursion into Newark politics,
interpreting the race to his national audience, failed to prompt
you to examine the depth of affection for Booker among the institutional
right-wing forces that Will represents. It is as if the
writers of the Star Ledger don't read.
you provide anecdotal tales of street level campaign excesses,
all the while giving the impression that coerced city employees
are the backbone of the Sharpe James re-election effort.
You are doing a better job of framing the story to Booker's
advantage than his own camp could possibly manage to construct.
are lies, and then there are lies of omission. The Star
Ledger is massively guilty of the latter category of lying.
The big story, the angle that any honest reporter would find
irresistible, the aspect that elevates this local political
battle to national significance, finds no expression in your
paper. Since when do the likes of George F. Will rally
to the banner of any candidate in a Black-on-Black contest in
a medium-sized city? What is his crowd doing in this race?
How deep is their involvement? What is Booker's relationship
to these forces?
emailed the five of you the link to The Black Commentator's
piece, Fruit of the Poisoned Tree: The Hard Right's Plan to
Capture Newark NJ. We also know that a number of you read
it. You cannot plead ignorance. The facts that served
as the basis for the commentary are all available on the public
record. Clearly, the Star Ledger has decided to exclude
these facts from its framing of the campaign.
have every constitutional right to use your newspaper for whatever
purposes you desire. But you have squandered any claim
to maintaining a journalistic distance from this story.
The only thing the Star Ledger has distanced itself from, is
Black Commentator found Cory Booker's bizarre political connections
of national exposure. The Star Ledger hides these facts
from its readers. You should be ashamed.
reply arrived within hours. City Editor David Goodwin wrote:
you for your prompt response and including me on your e-mail
don't want to offer an official reply to your letter since it
wasn't addressed to me. I am overseeing the newspaper's coverage
of the Newark mayoral election. My staff and I read your story
about Cory Booker with great interest and saw the cartoon.
of the points made in your story about Booker have appeared
in our publication in bits and pieces. I'd like to know who
wrote the piece and perhaps reach out to the writer.
is an exciting election with lots of angles, twists and turns
by the candidates. Our aim is to cover the election, the candidates
and the issues along with other interested media outlets like
the Black Commentator.
look forward to talking to you soon. I've already bookmarked
M. David Goodwin - City Editor
appreciate your attention to our letter to your staff, and your
bookmarking of the
researched and wrote the Cory Booker piece, and have scrupulously
followed the Star Ledger's campaign coverage. Please tell
me where to find the "bits and pieces" of items relating
to Booker's connections to the ultra-conservative Bradley Foundation
and its recipient institutes and anti-affirmative action legal
outfits. You and your staff must be aware that Booker's
national visibility is based on his support for private school
vouchers, and that he is on the board of the Bradley-created
Black Alliance for Educational Options, a group packed with
Republicans and high-profile right-wingers.
understand why Booker does not dwell on this aspect of his political
rise while campaigning in the Black, brown and poor precincts
of Newark. But, if you and your staff know his history
and connections, don't you have an obligation to question Booker
about these ties, and to report the results to your readers?
Again, please direct me to such coverage.
first became aware of Booker's strange allegiances through an
October 2000 article in the New York Times. The
not-yet-candidate had just spoken to a luncheon of the Manhattan
Institute, the notorious right-wing think tank. Three
decades of reporting experience told me that this was Booker's
coming-out event. The Manhattan Institute cultivates close
ties with The New York Times. Publicizing new right-wing
talent is one of the institute's specialties.
you and your staff know this. Reporters read the NYT,
and should be familiar with the work of the Manhattan Institute.
At least, I assume this is true at the Star Ledger….
newspaper is the only local daily in Newark. Please "reach
out" to this writer and explain to me how Cory Booker's
right-wing affiliations became scattered in "bits and pieces"
in your coverage of the "angles, twists and turns"
of the campaign. There are only 27 days left before the
currently uninformed voters make their choice. That's
just barely enough time to make up for past omissions.
look forward to your reply.
was no further communication from City Editor Goodwin. We turned
our attention to the New York Times:
Andrew Jacobs and Steve Strumsky
Your uninformed coverage of Newark mayoral campaign
April 9 article, Newark Relives Day of Machine in Mayor's Race
once again fails to note the most newsworthy aspect of the contest:
Cory Booker's deep ties to ultra-conservative institutions.
Surely, this is big news in a Black-on-Black contest, yet you
frame the story in terms of old-time bossism versus youthful
leaving out Booker's political ties, you commit grave journalistic
sins of omission, creating a totally distorted picture.
that you cannot plead ignorance in the future, here's a link
to our piece in The Black Commentator, titled Fruit of the Poisoned
Tree: The Hard Right's Plan to Capture Newark. It is thoroughly
researched. All facts are part of the public record.
can be reached at any time on my cell phone, listed below.
paper’s Newark bureau responded almost immediately, and conducted
a lengthy telephone interview with .
There seemed to be some prospect that Booker’s right-wing connections
would finally be revealed in the newspaper that had covered his
Manhattan Institute debut, two years before.
April 19, the Star Ledger for the first time linked Cory Booker’s
name with the words, “conservative think tanks,” in a paraphrase
of remarks by the head of the Newark Teachers Union. Even this
reluctant bow to the facts was turned into a backhanded slap:
the NTU endorsement [of Sharpe James] is more about the union’s
dislike of Booker. [Joseph] Del Grosso said Booker’s associations
with conservative think tanks, which promote privatization and
school vouchers, is a turnoff for Newark teachers. Booker is
a founding member of Excellent Education for Everyone, or E-Cubed,
a group that promotes school vouchers.”
versions of the
story, including a flyer headlined “Cory Booker Fronts for the
Enemy,” a brief outline of the candidate’s allegiances, were circulated
throughout Newark neighborhoods by community activists.
activists also reported that members of the City Council, which
opposed to their colleague Booker’s bid, had gathered to pore
over copies of the
article. In New Jersey’s largest city, at the height of the most
hard-fought political campaign in16 years, there was no other
documentation that one of the candidate’s was in league with Black
people’s most dangerous and powerful foes.
void, by itself, shows just how vulnerable African Americans are
to the Hard Right’s fielding of a heavily financed Black proxy.
It will be up to the people to expose these traitorous candidates,
wherever they pop up. The major media will not provide the ammunition.
Maria Johnson, the granddaughter of a prominent minister and Newark
homeowner, made available to
a letter written by Harvard’s Dr. Martin Kilson to his friend
Lee Daniels, publications director at the
National Urban League. The letter warns of the “ominous” threat
posed by the Booker campaign. Kilson said Booker was taking advantage
of a “leadership vacuum because Black community minded activist
professionals feel that they have no-place-to-go.”
Kilson letter and the
article, along with Al Sharpton’s endorsement of Mayor James,
became part of a mass mailing to voters organized by a local religious
group not directly connected to the James campaign.
people I know are not those people that Dr. Kilson refers to,”
said Ms. Johnson. “We don’t see a ‘vacuum.’ We are professionals
and value the experience that our elders put on the table.”
have to stand together and understand the gravity of the situation.
It’s not just about our city. This could be the first of the
dominos to fall. That’s my worry, that we could lose our city.”
She acknowledged that many younger Blacks are enthralled with
Booker, a trend noted in the polls.
Make the Front Page of the New York Times
with only three weeks to go in the campaign, The New York Times
became the first major media publication to provide space for
a critique of Booker’s political associations. The April 24 profile
of Booker, written by Andrew Jacobs, appeared on page 1 under
the headline, Youth, Money and Ambition Fuel Rival to Newark Mayor.
Ford, a journalist from Jersey City who is the co-publisher
of a Web site called Black Commentator, says Mr. Booker is allied
with conservatives seeking to dismantle public education, destroy
affirmative action and gain an urban foothold for their views.
He points to a speech Mr. Booker gave to the conservative Manhattan
Institute two years ago and a recent column by the conservative
writer George F. Will that ridiculed Mr. James and lionized
Mr. Booker. "He's totally cynical, careerist and mercenary,"
Mr. Ford said. "They're backing him so they can claim a
black elected official from a black city."
article quoted Sharpe James, who inched closer to describing Booker
as a pawn.
all smoke and mirrors," said Mr. James, who often uses
words like "fraud" and "phony" to describe
his rival. "These wealthy businessmen are investing in
an opportunity to take over Newark."
paragraphs represented a mere drizzle in the information drought.
Indeed, the following Sunday the New York Times Magazine featured
a long, fawning and weird article, written by a senior editor
at the journal Foreign Affairs, that can be summed up in one sentence:
Cory Booker is good for the Jews. This use of the Times
pages should be of special concern to Jews.
right-wing genie, however, was out of the bottle. The non-partisan
web site www.NewarkVotes.com
now includes references to Booker’s ultra-conservative connections:
Sharpe James, his campaign, and some supporters have publicly
stated the position that Councilman Cory Booker is really a
Republican running with secret right-wing backers based outside
the city. Evidence cited for this claim includes Booker's support
of school vouchers, his fundraising ties outside Newark, and
support of his campaign by conservatives like columnist George
James camp was becoming more aggressive. More importantly, James
stopped using the language of politics as usual. The local newspaper
could no longer frame the issues as it wished. On May 1, the Star
Ledger provided this account of a confrontation between the candidates
at a public forum:
are a closet Republican for vouchers and you refuse to admit
who you are," James said. Booker accused James of getting
most of his campaign contributions from slumlords and people
who get rich at the city's expense.
one point, James whispered to his aides and they returned with
two large signs and placed them behind Booker as he addressed
the crowd. One said that Booker was a Republican while the other
said he supports vouchers.
came as no surprise that both the New York Times and the Star
Ledger later editorially endorsed Cory Booker for Mayor. They
had been doing just that from the very beginning.
At the time of this writing, polls show Booker slightly ahead,
with Hispanic and white voters leaning or lurching, respectively,
in his direction—emphasizing the urgency that he be continuously
indicted as a soldier in someone else’s army.
money is flooding the streets, with reports of kids making up
to $200 a day handing out campaign literature. The Hard Right’s
candidate had $500,000 available for a final blitz, roughly the
amount he is outspending Mayor James. It is becoming ever clearer
to a grossly misinformed population that the Booker campaign is
not a local phenomenon. Said activist Maria Johnson, “They
know that a 32 year old running against a 16-year incumbent isn’t
supposed to have all that money. They smell a rat.”
Trojan Horse Alert
matter what happens in Newark on May 14—a Booker victory or a
close loss—heavily Black cities across the nation should expect
an assault for which they are ill prepared. Ultra-conservatives
have made an historic decision to invest all the money it takes
to plant their flag in our midst. Using these unfortunate cities,
they plan to create the appearance of an alternative Black politics
of the Right. Booker’s showing so far has already given them
all the encouragement they need. They have sensed our confusion.
school voucher issue is their wedge into the Black community.
Candidates like Cory Booker will likely come from that direction.
Well-funded machinery is already in place, in the form of Booker’s
Black Alliance for Educational Options, headquartered in Milwaukee
under Bradley Foundation supplicant Howard Fuller, who runs a
school for pro-voucher minority cadre. (See our previous article
treachery can come from any quarter, when the money is right—and
it is. Cory Booker raised $3 million to Sharpe James’ $2.5 million,
and James is the most important Black Democrat in a Democrat-controlled
state, endorsed by virtually every cog in the party’s machinery
and supportive coalitions.
Black Commentator volunteers its services in a national Black
Trojan Horse watch. Alert us if you believe they are on the make
in your area.
Hard Right is hiring on an equal opportunity basis these days,
big time players in the Black-on-Black political game.
Your comments are welcome. Visit the Contact
Us page for E-mail or Feedback.
here to send this page to a friend or colleague
Martin Kilson’s insightful letter to Lee Daniels, of the National
New York Times
research and links on Cory Booker’s ties to the Hard Right