Washington Bureau

07.29.13

Cory Booker's Iowa Scheduling Snafu

Ben Jacobs reports on the story behind Cory Booker’s Iowa speech that wasn’t.

Cory Booker isn’t going to Iowa after all.

Booker, the Newark, New Jersey, mayor who is currently a candidate in New Jersey’s special election for the United States Senate, had signed a contract on May 21 to speak at the University of Iowa, according to a university spokesman. The event would take place on August 29 as part of the University’s Welcome Back Week at the beginning of the academic year. He said the event was booked through the speaker’s agency that represented Booker after a committee of students and faculty invited him to speak in early May.

However, Booker campaign spokesperson Silvia Alvarez told The Daily Beast that a visit to Iowa “was not on Booker’s schedule” and said she had no idea how the event ended up on the university’s website.

According to Lin Larson, a spokesman for the university, there simply may have been a “breakdown between the company [that represents Booker] and the university.” He told the Beast that “as of now, Mayor Booker’s speech has been canceled” but there was a contract and that “we did expect him to come.”

In an email to The Daily Beast, another university spokesman, Tom Moore, said, "Campaign staff had asked his booking agency to cancel all of Mayor Booker’s appearances" during the campaign for the seat of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died on June 3.

According to Moore, Booker would have been paid $30,000 for the event, "inclusive of airfare and ground transportation costs." The money would come from "a combination of mandatory student fees and an endowed lecture fund." The Newark mayor has delivered 90 paid speeches over the past five years, from which he has earned $1.3 million according to recent financial disclosure filings.

The venue where Booker was scheduled to speak was the University of Iowa’s Main Lounge, which Larson described as being “pretty good sized” space that could hold several hundred people and would have been open to members of the public. Depending on demand and expectations, the event might have even been ticketed.

Booker's campaign has been plagued by criticism recently. An internal email accusing the campaign of incompetence recently leaked, and in February several key members of his campaign team quit.

Critics were quick to jump on the Newark mayor's Iowa booking. Jen Godoski, a spokesman for Congressman Frank Pallone, one of Booker's opponents, said in a statement: “Seems like the Mayor's talent agent forgot to tell him where he may be appearing ...  At this point, it sounds like people in Iowa may have more of a chance to hear what Mayor Booker's platform for U.S. Senate will be than voters in New Jersey will.”

Booker’s speaking agency, the Greater Talent Network, didn't reply to requests for comments made late in the day.