Political Party Time

Cory Booker is (Almost) Definitely Running for Senate

While Newark Mayor Cory Booker hasn't explicitly said he's running for a Senate seat in New Jersey, his party-hard actions indicate otherwise. Party Time has located at least ten cross-country fundraisers taking place in March and April where the beneficiary isn't just "Cory Booker" or "Newark Mayor Booker" -- it's his FEC-approved committee "Cory Booker for Senate."

The fundraiser event pages were all located on Booker's own public website; however, the specific pages with the invites were hidden from normal view, only accessible through targeted searches. It's likely the first undeniably strong indication that the high-profile mayor will indeed be pursuing New Jersey's open Senate seat. Booker's office had no comment on the events.

The partying surges just next week, where Booker will attend two events in the same day. Things will start March 21 at the prestigious Madison Avenue law offices of Quinn Emanuel, where they'll be treating donors to a $5,200 Lunch Reception. Later that same day, he'll rush back home to Newark for a $1,000 Reception at the swanky Adega Grill.

Booker will then fly down for a tour of the Sunshine State, including a couple of parties at private residences. The first, a March 22 cocktail reception in Fort Lauderdale, takes place at attorney (and modest Democratic donor) Ben Lap's house with a maximum price tag of $1,000. The following day Booker will be at it again, scheduling a $5,200 Lunch Reception at the Palm Beach home of commercial property owner Scott Baker. Adding his Florida swing, that brings Booker's total to four funders in just three days.

After a brief respite, Booker will head to the tried-and-true District of Cash. On April 1st he'll be toasting with yuppies around the nation's capital with an appropriately cheaper Young Professionals Reception. The event is taking place at the Adams Morgan hot spot Jack Rose, and will only run guests $100/$40. His next stop will be a return to NYC, where Rockefeller University Hospital head doc Barry Coller will open his Park Avenue apartment for a la-dee-dah cocktail reception. The price level for this event is a flat $1,000.

If you're not impressed so far, Booker's California gold rush in late April will probably do the trick. The $5,000 special evening event on April 26 may not sound special based on the price, but the guest list will leave your jaw on the floor. First of all, it's located at the Beverly Hills (90210!) mansion of prolific film producer Jerry Weintraub, who already contributed $5,000 to Booker's own CoryPAC in 2011 according to Sunlight's Influence Explorer. He also gave $4,600 to N.J. Sen. Frank Lautenberg's last (and final) campaign in 2007-08, the seat Booker has his eye on; it seems Weintraub has moved on, despite Lautenberg suggesting that Booker deserves a "spanking" for having the temerity to ogle the Senate seat before the 89-year-old incumbent announced plans to retire. Which Lautenberg eventually did.  Another former Lautenberg donor on the host committee was Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, who, with his wife, Marilyn, were the 12th highest contributors in the 2012 election. Together they gave over $360,000 to Democrats in addition to $3 million for Obama's super PAC, Priorities USA.

But he's not the only Hollywood megastar/megadonor to be listed on the invite -- many of whom kickstarted President Obama's historically monstrous campaign. The host committee boasts director Steven Spielberg, actor Bruce Willis, producer JJ Abrams, director Rob Reiner and more. Other names on the list are lesser-known, yet remain significant sponsors. Ted Sarandos, the Chief Content Officer for Netflix, chipped in over $75,000 to liberals last election. Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger also contributed over $80,000 to Democratic causes, including Obama Victory. Sony America CEO Michael Lynton gave almost $90,000, including $55,800 to the DNC. Willie Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco, donated to 100% blue candidates. And don't forget the bundlers! James and Mai Lassiter, who have bundled $500,000 for Obama, will be on hand. As will HBO exec James Costos and his partner, the uniquely-named interior designer Michael Smith -- first he revamped Obama's Oval Office and then packed his coffers with $500,000+ worth of bundled goodness (read: other people's money). Partiers, there's so much star power at this funder it could energize the Sun.

But guess what -- there's more! Booker will head up the coast to the San Francisco offices of Keker and Van Nest LLP for an evening reception on April 27. It's not the first time the law office has been the location of a Booker party, and both namesake partners, John Keker and Robert Van Nest, have each given tens of thousands to Democratic causes. Among the hosts are wealthy philanthropists Lisa and Doug Goldman, huge donors who have held fundraisers for high-level Democrats, including Obama. Bay Area Democrats founding board member Wade Randlett and his wife, Lorda, are both big Obama bundlers. Several Keker and Van Nest lawyers are co-hosting as well, including Quyen Ta, Jamie Slaughter, Jon Streeter, Michael Celio and Matan Shacham.

All this comes after two additional fundraisers that occurred earlier this month. On March 3, Booker traveled to nearby Summit, N.J. for an elegant Cocktail Reception. The event happened at the home of power couple Archie Gottesman and Gary DeBode, higher ups in Edison Properties LLC, both of whom donated modestly to Democrats in 2012. Other on the host committee include Summit Mayor Jordan Glatt and theater actor (and Summit resident) Harriett Trangucci. Price points were $1,000 for VIP status, and $500/$350 for less important persons. The second, a pricey $5,200 Special Dinner Reception in San Francisco, took place on March 12th at the home of investment banker John Scully. Booker and Scully have been in contact before, and it seems they've taken a liking to each other. Other hosts include billionaire son of Gap Inc. founders John Fisher, who has given to Booker in the past, as well as Steve Phillips, the director of PAC+ -- an organization "powered by a bunch of really cool people" that supports Booker. Their website just might give away Booker's very secret intention to run for Senate.

Booker is ramping up the fundraising efforts amid multiple polls showing him atop the heap of potential candidates. He may be using this surge to play cash catch up with competitor Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who has over $3 million in the bank to fund his campaign. Another possible candidate, Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., has about $800,000 cash-on-hand.

With so many fundraisers lurking behind the scenes, Booker may publicly be in denial -- but privately it seems as if his mind's made up.

Updated 3/15 -- added two previous fundraisers in early March.

Photo courtesy of David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.