U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J.) is joining the race for president, bringing with him strong ties to Silicon Valley.

Despite being a career politician, Booker briefly held the title of co-founder of the web video startup Waywire, attracting investments from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner in 2012. A graduate of Stanford University, Booker has also raised money for his political campaigns from prominent Silicon Valley figures including Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Booker joins an increasingly crowded race for the Democratic nomination alongside fellow senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

While primary race observers will be eager for more about his ideas on business and the economy, he told Inc. in 2013 that his parents had started a restaurant that failed when he was in grade school, and it had been a formative experience for him. Meantime, here are three ways he has advocated for business as a senator.

Increasing startup funding

Two years ago, Booker introduced the Startup Opportunity Accelerator Act of 2017, a bill to create a program that gives up to $50,000 in funding to startups. The legislation calls for supporting accelerator programs located in underserved communities and minority founders. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship in 2017.

Simplifying business taxes

Booker is co-sponsor of a bill that aims to standardize how states tax nonresident workers and simplify the task of compliance for both employers and employees. Currently, employees who work across state lines need to file taxes according to each entity's tax law. Under the proposed legislation, nonresident employees would not be required to pay taxes in states where they worked fewer than 30 days per year. It would also exempt employers from state income tax withholding and reporting requirements for employees who meet these conditions. A similar bill has already passed the House, but the bill has not been taken up in the Senate. 

Supporting innovation in tech

During a keynote speech at the South by Southwest conference in Austin in 2017, Booker called for scaling back regulations in the tech sector. 

"We have a government that is not moving at the speed of innovation," he said, calling certain tech regulations "burdensome." Booker also expressed concern about companies leaving the U.S. and establishing operations in countries with more lenient rules, citing drone businesses flocking to Europe as an example. "We have to be a country that has a government poised to be a catalytic agent for innovation," he said.

Booker also has cultivated working relationships with prominent tech entrepreneurs. As the mayor of Newark in 2010, he secured a $100 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for a foundation to reform the city's public schools, which was recounted in the 2015 book The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools? by Dale Russakoff (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Published on: Feb 1, 2019