Booker Criticizes Wall Street Despite History of Taking Big Bank Dollars

June 13, 2019

Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.), who is running in a crowded field of presidential candidates, was critical of Wall Street during a new interview, despite taking tens of thousands of dollars from Wall Street banks.

Booker recently sat down with CNBC reporter John Harwood at a coffee shop in Des Moines, Iowa, where he was asked about JPMorgan Chase's chief executive Jamie Dimon.

"Jamie Dimon's the head of JP Morgan Chase. He put out a statement this year to shareholders and said that the tax cut was working. He supported the Trump tax cut. But he also said that the social needs of too many Americans are not being met," Harwood said. "Is he part of the problem, or part of the solution?"

Booker prefaced his response by saying he sees things through the "lens of an inner city low-income community."

"The games that they played, the rigged system hurt my community. It aggravated the racial wealth gap," Booker said. "There's a lot of ire that I have for the way the rules have been written. We have got to make sure that this economy is working for the ideals that we were taught. That's why I passed the piece of legislation with Tim Scott, across the aisle, for opportunity zones."

"We actually have a system now that's designed against building companies to last. That's being built to drive profits to people on Wall Street," Booker continued. "We're in Iowa, it's hollowing out communities like this and hurting what are I think, basic capitalistic ideals."

While Booker has pledged to run his presidential campaign the "right way" by refusing donations from corporate political action committees and federal lobbyists, he has a history of taking money from the corporate PACs of Wall Street banks. During his 2014 campaign, he received $5,000 from Goldman Sachs' PAC, $7,000 from Morgan Stanley's PAC,  and $10,000 from  JPMorgan Chase & Co's PAC. Individuals from those same three banks would donate over $200,000 to Booker's campaign that same year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In These Times, a progressive magazine, reported back in April that Booker started rejecting corporate PAC money in February 2018, but noted he was still receiving many donations from individuals at big banks in the finance industry, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Prudential Financial.

His top source of funding, New York-based corporate law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, receives much of its business from the financial sector, particularly Citigroup. The firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison has worked with Citigroup for more than a decade, including behind-the-scenes maneuvering in 2010 to pressure the SEC to drop fraud claims against a Citigroup executive. One of the firm’s former partners, Mark Pomerantz, argued in 2014 that the fees the Justice Department forced financial institutions to pay in the wake of the 2008 crisis were "grossly excessive" and "nonsensical."

Individuals from several top lawyer-lobbying firms have also been among Booker's biggest backers. One is Sullivan & Cromwell, which has lobbied for corporate entities such as Barclays, UBS and the Private Equity Council. In 2017 and 2018, Sullivan & Cromwell represented both Goldman Sachs and the Salt Lake City-based Zions National Bank, lobbying on behalf of the firms in support of President Trump's successful roll-back of the Dodd-Frank financial regulations.