For much of Ed Lee's first term as Mayor of San Francisco, he enjoyed both the popular support of the public and the financial backing of tech tycoons. Last March, a stunning 65 percent of local voters approved of Lee's handling of the job. Then the Google Bus protests happened, the cost of living kept rising, and evictions hit crisis levels. Within 13 months, Lee's approval rating sunk by 20 points.
When San Francisco began considering legalizing Airbnb, the flourishing startup was quick to ingrain itself in the political process. Airbnb's lobbyists secretly helped author favorable legislation, then created an astroturfing organization to strike down the sections they didn't like. And now that the legislation has passed, Airbnb's investors are rewarding their City Hall stooge with a smear campaign against his electoral opponent.
Just two weeks before San Francisco's 2011 mayoral election, billionaire angel investor Ron Conway pushed out a viral campaign ad for Mayor Ed Lee that featured cameos from local sports stars and Silicon Valley tech celebs. Now, 13 months before Lee's next election, Conway's techie advocacy group has released another ad including all the hallmarks from the original "2 Legit 2 Quit" video.
Last night, California Attorney General Kamala Harris spoke "truth to power" at a fundraiser hosted at Airbnb's new crisp and airy Soma headquarters. But the only fat cats in the room were the Silicon Valley millionaires and billionaires who are helping to finance her reelection, including Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and Airbnb investor Ron Conway.
Ron Conway, the pioneering angel investor behind the "spray and pray" technique, has put his $9.5 million "Louis XV style" abode up for sale, reports Business Insider. According to Trulia, the price for this full floor apartment in one of "San Francisco's most desirable co-op buildings" has recently dropped half a million.
A month before San Francisco's last mayoral election, when Ed Lee's rivals struggled to raise funds, Lee was helped along by independent committees like San Franciscans for Jobs and Good Government, a group funded by Ron Conway and Sean Parker. In one quarter alone, they raised $364,000, half from Conway and $100,000 from Parker.
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?
Earlier today, Michael Arrington solemnly vowed to "face down the evil at TechCrunch Disrupt," the tech blog's biannual conference. Not the vulgar sexism permitted on stage, but rather the tech industry's see-no-evil attitude towards the NSA using its products to spy on American citizens. (Complacency seems to be common theme.)