Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he found President Barack Obama’s campaign’s recent attacks on Bain Capital “nauseating” in an appearance on national political programme Meet the Press on Sunday.
While the ads have been criticised by members of both parties, Booker’s comments are noteworthy because they come from one of the President’s staunchest and most high-profile supporters.
“I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity,” Booker said. “I live in a state where pension funds, unions
and other people are investing in companies like Bain Capital. If you look at the totality of Bain Capital’s record, they’ve done a lot of stuff to support businesses to grow businesses … This kind of stuff is nauseating to me on both sides. It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity.”
Booker equated the attacks to those made by Republicans on former Obama associate Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who has made several inflammatory statements on race relations in the United States.
Booker did not respond to requests for comment. However, he did later clarify his views in a statement made through his YouTube channel.
“Mitt Romney has made his business record a centerpiece of his campaign. He’s talked about himself as a job creator. And therefore it is reasonable, and in fact I encourage it, for the Obama campaign to examine that record and to discuss it. I have no problem with that. In fact, I believe that Mitt Romney in many ways is not being completely honest with his role and his record,” he said.
Booker’s comments – taken collectively – are more nuanced than much of what has been said about the industry by members of either political party in recent months. While Obama and primary candidate Newt Gingrich’s ads are considered unfair by many, Romney’s defense of Bain’s jobs record has been equally heavy-handed. His campaign has not substantiated its claim that he helped create 100,000 jobs in his role at the firm.
It's nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity.
The mayor’s perspective is likely influenced by private equity’s economic influence in his own backyard. Newark public employees’ pensions, which are managed at the state level by the New Jersey Division of Investment, are heavily invested in the asset class. The state’s pension system had $5.3 billion, 7.3 percent of its overall allocation, invested in private equity as of 30 June 2011, according to its annual report.
The city has also benefitted directly from the industry’s investments. New Jersey’s 13th Congressional District, which includes parts of Newark, was the beneficiary of five private equity transactions last year totaling around $1.3 billion in investments. The 10th Congressional District also saw two transactions of undisclosed deal value, according to the Private Equity Growth Capital Council.
The PEGCC, along with the Romney campaign, has been quick to seize on Booker’s comments as evidence that even the President’s supporters view his attacks on Bain as misguided. The Obama campaign has made a point of saying that the ads are not an attack on the industry model, just Bain investments made under Romney.
However, despite that clarification, media coverage has largely considered this an affront to the private equity industry as a whole. The Romney campaign has already released an advertisement to retort using Booker’s Meet the Press comments, along with similar statements made by former Obama advisor and ex-head of The Quadrangle Group Steve Ratner.