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Cory Booker Waywire Report Sparks Criticism From Opponents

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A New York Times report Wednesday detailing how Silicon Valley executives provided funding for Newark Mayor Cory Booker's Internet startup is leading to criticism from his opponents in New Jersey's U.S. Senate race, with less than a week until the primary on Aug. 13.

The Times reported that Booker has raised funding for the online video curation company Waywire from top executives in Silicon Valley, including Google Chairman Eric Schmidt. Booker is the chairman of the company.

With six days left until the special Democratic primary for the Senate seat, Booker's main Democratic rival, Rep. Frank Pallone, sounded off on Booker's business venture in a statement on Wednesday.

"As the mayor has said himself, running the city takes a lot of time, yet it seems that the mayor must have spent an enormous amount of time getting his startup off the ground and courting financial backers," Pallone's campaign said in a statement. "This comes weeks after the mayor amended his financial disclosure forms to detail additional income related to his startup tech company, and the fact that at least one independent ethics group is taking him to task for his business relationships is a cause for alarm."

Pallone's campaign did not specify which "ethics group" it alleged is investigating Booker, but Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told The Times that Booker's large ownership stake in Waywire was "a little bit problematic."

Booker has disclosed a financial stake in Waywire of between $1 million and $5 million, but only recently amended his financial disclosure forms with the U.S. Senate and state ethics officials with regards to his Waywire holdings, the Times reported.

Booker has been upfront with the role Silicon Valley leaders have played in helping to finance his startup. Last year, he told The Huffington Post that Schmidt was among the investors providing $1.75 million in first-round capital for the company. At the time, Booker said he would not be involved in Waywire's management.

Booker campaign spokesman Kevin Griffis told HuffPost that the mayor has filed all of the appropriate financial disclosures, including the recent amendments that he described as clearing up an "oversight." He said Booker has not kept the company a secret.

"The campaign caught the oversight and fixed it," he said. "The mayor's involvement on the board has been well-chronicled. There are more than a 100 stories about Waywire and the mayor's involvement."

The Times report comes days before Booker and Pallone, along with Rep. Rush Holt and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, face off in the primary in the election caused by the June death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D). Booker leads Pallone by 37 points in a recent poll, and he will likely face Steve Lonegan in the Oct. 16 special election for the seat. Booker leads Lonegan in polls for that potential race.

Lonegan, a former Bogota mayor who until recently headed the New Jersey chapter of the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, told HuffPost that he has questions over whether Booker can fairly represent New Jersey in the Senate.

"If this guy goes to the Senate, he'll vote the way Silicon Valley tells him," Lonegan said.

Griffis stressed Booker's work on ethics reform in Newark city government. Booker has pushed a series of ethics issues since taking office in 2006, including signing executive orders restricting city contracts from going to businesses making campaign contributions.

When asked about his seven-year relationship with AFP, the special-interest group founded by the Koch brothers, Lonegan said Wednesday that his situation was different. The AFP New Jersey chapter did not receive funding from the Koch brothers, he said. His personal house and car were not bought by "Silicon Valley moguls," he charged, referring to Booker's business ties.

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