How Democratic Operatives Fight Innovation-Crushing Regulations

(p. B1) SAN FRANCISCO — Over the last few years, so-called sharing companies like Airbnb and Uber — online platforms that allow strangers to pay one another for a room or a ride — have established footholds in thousands of communities well before local regulators have figured out how to deal with them.

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Chris Lehane, a Washington political operative who now serves as Airbnb’s head of global policy and public affairs, framed Proposition F (p. B10) as a hotel-industry-led attack on the middle class.
In this city of about 840,000 people, roughly $8 million was raised by groups opposed to Proposition F — about eight times the amount raised by the proposition’s backers, according to records filed with the San Francisco Ethics Commission.
Much of that money was spent mobilizing Airbnb hosts and users, Mr. Lehane said. Still, he repeatedly homed in on one of the company’s most important talking points: Airbnb’s victory was a win for the middle class.
“Cities recognize where the world is going, right, they understand that you’re either going to go forward or you’re going to go backward,” he said. “They understand that in a time of economic inequality, this is a question of whose side are you on: Do you want to be on the side of the middle class, or do you want to be opposed to the middle class?”
. . .
Companies like Airbnb and Uber have become multibillion-dollar companies by employing a kind of guerrilla growth strategy in which they set up a modest team of workers in a city and immediately start providing their services to the public, whether local laws allow them to or not.
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Mr. Lehane, a former political operative in the Clinton administration, was nicknamed the Master of Disaster for his no-holds-barred approach to winning political fights. David Plouffe, a former adviser to President Obama, is now a senior adviser to Uber and a member of its board.
Mr. Lehane and Mr. Plouffe have both tried to frame their companies as middle-class saviors in a moment of economic anxiety and income inequality — themes that are playing out in the presidential election as well. Jeb Bush and other Republicans have bragged about their Uber rides on the campaign trail, praising these companies as the future of self-sufficient employment.

For the full story, see:
CONOR DOUGHERTY and MIKE ISAAC. “Airbnb and Uber Mobilize Vast User Base to Sway Policy.” The New York Times (Thurs., NOV. 5, 2015): B1 & B10.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date NOV. 4, 2015.)

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