Cory Booker was recently interviewed by the Washington Post, and he was asked about his past support for vouchers and his friendship with Betsy DeVos. 

He insisted that he turned against vouchers in 2006, and he barely remembered any connection to DeVos. When someone asked if he had flown to Michigan in 2000 at the request of Dick and Betsy DeVos to support their voucher referendum, he at first denied it, then when shown a tape, he said he didn’t remember it.

He opposed DeVos’ nomination to be Secretary of Education in 2017.

DeVos’s allies are stunned by what they call his turnabout. They view Booker’s effort to distance himself from her and her agenda as a betrayal. 

Now that it is politically inconvenient, he has distanced himself from the issue and those who helped launch his political career,” said William E. Oberndorf, who was chairman of the American Education Reform Council when DeVos and Booker were on the board. “Cory once told me that his father used to say to him, ‘Never forget the girl who brought you to the dance.’ I can only conclude that Cory not only forgot one of the girls who brought him to the dance, he missed his . . . moment to stand up for an issue he always said he believed in.” 

Booker’s advocacy for vouchers won him the financial support of conservative Republicans who were delighted to see a black Democratic Mayor supporting their cause.

Booker’s political career took off as a parade of wealthy philanthropists, hedge fund managers and others who supported DeVos’s “school choice” viewpoint poured money into his campaigns and pet projects. 

In 2000, with their voucher referendum on the ballot, the DeVos family invited Booker to debate the legislative director of the ACLU. She kept a tape of the debate and shared it with the Post. The voucher proposal went down to a crushing defeat by 3-1.

In September 2000, Booker delivered a blistering pro-voucher speech to the Manhattan Institute, a conservative policy group. 

Booker’s 2006 race for mayor of Newark won the support of many conservative Republicans. He proposed tuition tax credits (a form of voucher) and went all-in for charters.

When he ran for the Senate in 2014 in a special election, he was helped by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who held a fundraiser for him.

As recently as May 2016, Booker appeared again before the group that DeVos chaired, the American Federation for Children. After DeVos delivered a speech defending herself against attacks from Democrats, Oberndorf warmly introduced Booker, praising his commitment to school choice.

Booker spoke proudly about the growing number of students in Newark’s charter schools, saying, “This mission of this organization is the mission of our nation. . . . I have been involved with this organization for 10 years and I have seen the sacred honor of those here.” 

As Booker finished his speech, the audience gave him a standing ovation. To DeVos and her allies, it seemed that Booker was still firmly in the fold, according to Oberndorf. 

But a year later, he opposed DeVos’ nomination.

Booker’s vote shattered his career-long alliance with DeVos and stunned her supporters. 

“Cory gained a great deal of political support thanks to his association with Betsy and other supporters,” said Mitchell, the president of the American Education Reform Council when Booker and DeVos were board members. “His abandonment of school choice and of Betsy makes it clear that his professed commitment to the issue and his friendship with her were fueled by political ambition, not principle.” 

Betsy helped to fund his political career. But it was no longer convenient to be her friend.