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.
According to the SF Weekly, early Airbnb investors Reid Hoffman and Ron Conway have funneled nearly $600,000 into an independent expenditure committee to back city Supervisor David Chiu, who lead the fight to legalize Airbnb.
Chiu is locked in a tight State Assembly race with fellow Supervisor David Campos, who opposed the Airbnb legislation. The Weekly reports that Hoffman and Conway were pleased that Chiu battled back demands for Airbnb to pay the millions in back hotel taxes they owe the city. Now they are using their wealth to blast Chiu's opponent as a supporter of domestic violence.
Hoffman, who also serves on Airbnb's Board of Directors, is leading the smear campaign. The San Francisco Chronicle notes that the LinkedIn cofounder turned venture capitalist recently donated another $300,000 to the campaign, bringing his total to a half million. In an email to the Chronicle, Hoffman stated "it is unworthy of San Francisco, the leading city of the Bay Area, to send to Sacramento as its representative someone who voted to allow a domestic abuser to remain as sheriff of San Francisco."
Hoffman financing has meant voters are getting hit with mailers that tie Chiu's opponent to domestic violence:
In an open letter sent to Valleywag, the California National Organization of Women has described Hoffman's actions as "cynical." They have also accused him of "[distorting] and [exploiting] the serious issue of domestic violence."