Last night Ras Baraka won Newark’s mayoral election all but formally ending the Cory Booker era. With the power of grass roots and union support Baraka overcame Booker’s chosen establishment backed successor Shavar Jeffries. Though Booker has already gone on to continue hyping himself in the US Senate, his legacy in Newark has yet to be cleansed.
One of the signature achievements of Mayor Booker was a press coup where he announced on Oprah that Facebook Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg was giving Booker and his cronies $100 million to help Newark’s struggling school children. The donation came around the release of The Social Network, a film critical of Zuckerberg and was widely seen as a transparent attempt to bolster Zuckerberg’s public image.
Ultimately the ACLU of New Jersey would win a lawsuit against Booker to force emails between Facebook and Booker hacks to become public. In the emails Facebook COO Sherly Sandberg warned Team Booker that the people of Newark were not being looped in to the process and that a lack of “building community support” was one of her concerns. She was right to worry.
As has now been reported, a good deal of the $100 million has been siphoned off by Booker loyalists. In fact, between 2010 and 2012 over $20 million of Facebook’s gift and matching funds was sucked into Team Booker’s corrupt vortex. Instead of going to help the children of Newark the money went to the juiced in hacks and crass business interests that have been trying to bulldoze public education throughout America.
During the next two years, more than twenty million dollars of Zuckerberg’s gift and matching donations went to consulting firms with various specialties: public relations, human resources, communications, data analysis, teacher evaluation. Many of the consultants had worked for Joel Klein, Teach for America, and other programs in the tight-knit reform movement, and a number of them had contracts with several school systems financed by Race to the Top grants and venture philanthropy. The going rate for individual consultants in Newark was a thousand dollars a day. Vivian Cox Fraser, the president of the Urban League of Essex County, observed, “Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.”
Not surprisingly, there has not been any discernible improvement in Newark’s education system due to Facebook’s $100 million gift. Actually, there has not been much improvement period during the Booker era. Some charter schools even diminished their reputations when they were caught cheating on tests.
So looks like Mark Zuckerberg and friends got suckered by skilled political operators and their related business partners. Or maybe that was always the deal – in exchange for some good press and favors to be repaid later Zuckerberg made a stealthy political contribution to further Cory Booker’s political career.
Having influence with a mayor isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Having a US Senator in your pocket.