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Airbnb Invests in SF Politics 

Wednesday, Aug 26 2015
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With over 5,200 listings in San Francisco, Airbnb is a major player in the city's tourism market. And now that voters could regulate its business model out of existence, Airbnb is also a player in city politics.

In July, Airbnb wrote a $10,000 check to the Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), the collection of elected officials, city employees, and activists who decide what the local Democratic Party is "officially" about.

A few weeks later, the DCCC voted against endorsing Proposition F, a ballot measure that would outlaw listing a San Francisco housing unit on Airbnb or similar "home-sharing" websites more than 75 nights per year.

That means the No on F campaign, which Airbnb has bankrolled to the tune of $300,000, can now say that the SF Democratic Party is "officially" against the proposal. This message will now likely end up on the deluge of placards, pamphlets, and other political mail registered voters receive every election cycle.

Airbnb has been steadily making inroads into city politics in recent years, hiring a City Hall veteran as its main lobbyist and hiring the city's hottest political consultancy firm.

But Airbnb's roots in the DCCC are especially deep. DCCC member Tom Hsieh, Jr., a political consultant, is working on the No on F campaign, according to 48hills, which also reported that DCCC member Alix Rosenthal – herself an Airbnb host – interviewed for a job at the company.

Both voted in favor of Airbnb on the Prop. F question.

While the vote broke no DCCC rules, it's led to grumbling that some members should have skipped the Airbnb vote.

"It does raise questions about the independence of the [DCCC], or if the committee might be influenced by contributions," said political consultant Jim Ross (who thus far has no home in the Airbnb race). Had the DCCC members been city commissioners, city rules would have forbid Hsieh and Rosenthal from voting, Ross noted.

But, as Airbnb pointed out, this is all standard stuff. The DCCC takes money from anyone and everyone involved in local politics, money that's then spent on voter outreach and campaign mailers (but mostly mailers).

"$10,000 is a small portion of the committee's budget and I highly doubt it influenced anyone's vote," said Supervisor Scott Wiener, who also voted against endorsing Prop. F.

In fact, it may have been weirder if Airbnb didn't cut the DCCC a fat check prior to its vote.

"People are disgusted by the money," said one S.F. politico, speaking anonymously, "but they also just expect that this is the way shit gets decided these days."

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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