Both Airbnb and Uber—shining stars of the sharing economy or efficient middlemen, depending on how you look at it—have chosen to use New York as a model city for making sure lawmakers rule in their favor. And what better way to tip the scales than by backing the man most likely to be our next Mayor?
The New York Times reports that Bill de Blasio, "the 99 percent mayor" has received campaign financing from a number of Silicon Valley 1 percenters of late. All three California-based Airbnb cofounders—Nathan Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia—have given the maximum possible donation to de Blasio, who "could play a significant role in the negotiations."
Airbnb’s concerns are very specific: Currently, many of its users in New York City are violating a 2010 state law that prohibits renting an apartment for fewer than 30 days if a permanent resident of the apartment is not present. Airbnb would like the state to revise the law to make short-term rentals legal, and in exchange it has proposed that Airbnb renters be required to pay the city’s hotel tax, known as the occupancy tax. [...]
Mr. de Blasio has previously expressed skepticism about Airbnb, saying that having visitors come and go was disruptive to neighbors and that he had concerns about safety.
Other Bay Area donors to Mr. de Blasio include Reid Hoffman, a co-founder of LinkedIn — who is close enough to the current mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, that the mayor gave him a book party at his Upper East Side townhouse. Mr. Hoffman donated $4,950, as did John Arrillaga, a billionaire real estate developer, and Shervin Pishevar, an investor in companies including Uber and Tumblr. John Donahoe, the chief executive of eBay, donated $2,500.
What the Times doesn't mention is that Hoffman is a partner at Greylock, which has invested in Airbnb and Tumblr and that Arrillaga is Marc Andreessen's father-in-law (at least for the time being). Andreessen Horowitz is also an investor in Airbnb. Pishevar, of course, thinks politicians could learn a thing or two from Uber.
The contribution limits for city officials are pretty low, especially for a companies like Airbnb and Uber, which have raised $326 million and $307 million in venture capital, respectively. But the mayor's race isn't the only place Airbnb is spending. In addition to other lobbying expenses, Airbnb also hired an Albany firm called Bolton-St. Johns.
For its part, Uber has two Bloomberg veterans on its payroll. Bradley Tusk, who managed Bloomberg's 2009 mayoral campaign and informally advised Christine Quinn, has been helping Uber with its considerable regulatory hurdles around the country, since mid-2011. Meanwhile, Stu Loeser became a spokesperson for Uber after leaving "the longest tenure of a press secretary in City Hall for decades" in December. In a New York Times piece about Loeser's departure, Tusk himself described Loeser and Bloomberg as "almost like an old married couple at this point."
With a regime change comes a new chance to wield some influence, especially as Silicon Valley gets comfortable flexing its political muscle.
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[Image via Airbnb]