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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Top 9 People and Companies Cashing in on Airbnb's $8 Million Campaign

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 11:53 AM

  • Photo: Shutterstock Illustration: SF Weekly

Airbnb's jawdropping $8 million expenditure to defeat the ballot measure that would strictly regulate short-term rentals in San Francisco has the No on Proposition F campaign on track to become one of the most expensive in San Francisco history. With five weeks to go, Airbnb trails only the American Beverage Association ($9.2 million to defeat the soda tax in 2014) and PG&E ($10.8 million in 2008 to defeat public power).

Airbnb's $8 million far outstrips the $5.6 million that all 14 mayoral candidates combined spent in the 2011 election. 

So what is Airbnb doing with all that money? 

Well, first of all, the campaign has only reported the expenditures up to September 19, at which point it had paid out $3,582,028. About 20% of that dough (approximately $600,000) has gone to things like payroll, office supplies, rent (the campaign had to swallow a $10,000 loss after cancelling a $40,000 lease with landlord Edward Litke on its ill-fated Mission campaign HQ), Uber rides, Instacart deliveries, meals for volunteers, and Clipper cards. 

The other 80% has gone to a handful of big winners. Here's who's cashing in on Airbnb's pile of cash:

1. Sadler Strategic Communications — $1,715,097
SSC is a political consulting and media buying firm run by Sheri Sadler, a veteran of California politics who worked on Arnold Schwarzenegger's recall campaign and Ed Lee's 2011 mayoral campaign. Most of the money paid out to her has been put toward advertisement buys on local television stations, but Sadler has also racked up $63,359.09 in commissions, so far. 

2. Joe Slade White Communications, Inc. — $316,904.45

Joe Slade White is a national Democratic campaign consultant. He's worked for Vice President Joe Biden for years and claims that he beat David Beckham at soccer (he actually beat him at politics but whatever). White's key to success is his "9 Principles of Winning Campaigns," which appears to be his own version of Mao's Little Red Book, replete with aphorisms attributed to none other than Joe Slade White: 

click to enlarge SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot

In addition to $94,169.88 in commissions to himself, White has shelled out much of his campaign cash to media production folks, including $11,097.50 to the voice actor who did Barack Obama's 2008 campaign ads. 

3. David Binder Research — $264,800.00
Another heavy hitter with an Obama-pedigree, the San Francisco-based polling and research firm is raking in the short-term rental cash. 

4. Hsieh & Associates — $157,983.00
This is a controversial one. Hsieh & Associates is the political consulting firm of Tom Hsieh, a local Democratic Party leader who sits on SF's Democratic County Central Committee. Hsieh raised eyebrows when he declined to recuse himself from the DCCC's endorsement vote on Prop. F. Hsieh voted with Airbnb, and now the No on Prop F campaign has the official imprimatur of the Democratic Party. Much of Hsieh's cash has gone to media buys on Chinese language TV-channel KTSF. 

5. Pacific Print Resources — $111,242.46
Campaign mailers don't grow on trees. 

6. Social Stream Media — $65,400.00
Any San Franciscan who's been on Facebook or Twitter in the last few months has probably seen @NoOnPropF's attempts at viral content. Social media impressions aren't free, and Social Stream has shelled out $25 grand for Facebook ads, $5,000+ each for Google and Twitter ads, and $1,250 on YouTube. Still, money can't buy you love and @NoOnPropF has a paltry 305 Twitter followers. 

7. 50+1 Strategies — $62,205.79
50+1 principal Nicole Derse orchestrated Airbnb's astroturf "Fair to Share" campaign in the run up to then Supervisor David Chiu's short-term rental regulation legislation. She also ran David Chiu's campaign for State Assembly. The resulting *ahem* appearance of conflicts of interest and allegations of unregistered lobbying led to ethics complaints being filed against Derse and Chiu. Chiu has endorsed the No on F campaign. It's all one big happy family. 

8. Organizer — $44,369.00
Thanks to San Francisco's strict ethics laws, campaigns have to itemize their expenditures so people like us can comb through them and make snarky comments. But it's hard to tell exactly what's going on with the three payments to "Organizer" for IT expenses. One guess: it could be this fancy looking app-based campaign tool that lets canvassers replace the old-fashioned clipboard with a smartphone. 

9. Patrick Hannan — $32,908.75
The local campaign consultant is providing the No on F campaign with "communications, political strategy, and management" services, according to documents he filed with the Ethics Commission. Prior to this campaign, Hannan was Director of Communications, Planning, and Programs for the City Fields Foundation and worked on the campaign to allow artificial turf fields at the Beach Chalet soccer fields. Ironically, Hannan's name came up in the brouhaha after a group of Airbnb and Dropbox tech bros tried to kick Mission youth off the Mission Playground soccer fields. According to 48hills, Hannan helped to lead the 2009 community meetings that led to the introduction of a paid reservation system at the public fields. Following a community outcry, the parks department agreed to stop renting out the field to adults during prime pickup hours. 

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About The Author

Julia Carrie Wong

Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

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