Booker will oversee Silicon Valley on Commerce panel

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), whose close ties to Silicon Valley have sparked controversy, has been named to the Senate Commerce Committee. 

The post will give Booker influence on policies affecting the technology industry, such as online privacy, cybersecurity and communications regulation.

Booker's campaign for the Senate was fueled by major donations from Silicon Valley executives including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and investor Marc Andreessen, according to transparency group Open Secrets.

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Booker is also relying on his Silicon Valley connections to build his team in Washington. Louisa Terrell, the former director of public policy for Facebook, will be his chief of staff. 

In a statement, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Booker brings "a keen understanding of several key issues before the Committee, such as the fundamental role communications networks, technological advances, and transportation systems play in people’s lives."

"These objectives are a perfect fit for a senator with more than a million Twitter followers," Rockefeller said. 

Booker's Silicon Valley ties date back to his days at Stanford University, where he met many people who would go on to found technology companies. 

In 2012, he launched his own online video start-up called Waywire, with millions of dollars in backing from many of the same people who have funded his campaigns. 

Booker's stake in the venture was worth between $1 million and $5 million, The New York Times reported.

Booker used his high-profile to promote the company, giving a speech about it at the South by Southwest conference in Austin and touting it on his Twitter account.

But some questioned whether the company diverted Booker's attention away from his job as mayor of Newark.

Andrew Zucker, the 15-year-old son of CNN President Jeff Zucker, was given a seat on a board that advised Waywire and stock options. He resigned after The New York Times highlighted his role in the company.

Booker cut his ties with Waywire in September.