Commentary Magazine


Tainted Money from Bain Capital?

Last night, Cory Booker attempted to walk back his Bain Capital comments yet again, this time on the Rachel Maddow show. Why is he even bothering? The damage is already done. The left now sees him as a traitor to the class struggle, bought and paid for, as Cornell West is fond of saying, by the Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats.

Let’s imagine they’re right, and Booker said what he said because he thinks the Bain attacks are unpopular with his constituents and donors on Wall Street. If that’s the case, shouldn’t Obama take his comments even more seriously? Back in 2008, Obama was the top candidate recipient of donations from the securities and investment industry, raising more than $16 million. So far in 2012, he has raised $2 million. So…maybe Booker has a point.

Still, liberal bloggers are pushing the issue in an effort to run damage control for the Obama campaign. Booker has apparently taken donations from Bain higher-ups over the years, and Think Progress seized on this scandalous scandal as proof of his treachery:

Contributions to his 2002 campaign from venture capitalists, investors, and big Wall Street bankers brought him more than $115,000 for his 2002 campaign. Among those contributing to his campaign were John Connaughton ($2,000), Steve Pagliuca ($2,200), Jonathan Lavine ($1,000) — all of Bain Capital. While the forms are not totally clear, it appears the campaign raised less than $800,000 total, making this a significant percentage.

He and his slate also jointly raised funds for the “Booker Team for Newark” joint committee. They received more than $450,000 for the 2002 campaign from the sector — including a pair of $15,400 contributions from Bain Capital Managing Directors Joshua Bekenstein and Mark Nunnelly. It appears that for the initial campaign and runoff, the slate raised less than $4 million — again making this a sizable chunk.

In all — just in his first mayoral run — Booker’s committees received more than $565,000 from the people he was defending. At least $36,000 of that came from folks at Romney’s old firm.

In other words, they’re going further than just attacking Romney’s tenure at Bain. They’re now claiming the firm itself is so poisonous that even taking money from its executives is enough to taint a politician.

This attack becomes problematic because both Obama and the DNC have taken large contributions from Bain employees, including several of the executives accusatorily cited in the Think Progress article. Bain’s Managing Partner Steve Pagliuca, and Managing Directors Jonathan Lavine and Mark Nunnelly have already given the maximum donation to the Obama campaign and the DNC for the 2012 campaign cycle, each contributing $35,800 to the Obama Victory Fund 2012 and $30,800 to the campaign committee.

Lavine has also been one of Obama’s top bundlers, raising over $100,000* for him so far this cycle.

And yet Think Progress is trying to smear Booker by saying these Bain executives kicked his campaign a few thousand dollars each back in 2002?

It doesn’t look good. Some of the Bain executives listed are long-time DNC donors, and what are they getting for it now? A $700 million dollar national campaign against their company? Targeted attacks from Democratic think tank bloggers? That kind of treatment isn’t going to inspire confidence in potential Obama donors watching from the sdelines.

*I initially wrote that Lavine raised over $1 million – that was actually the number of total contributions he’s given to all federal candidates, parties and PACs since 1990, according to OpenSecrets.

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