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Sunday, May 8, 2016

Uber Power

It is a bad mistake to attribute interest group power only to campaign money.  Groups can also mobilize their constituencies.  AARP, for instance, does not give make any campaign contributions at all but has power because of  its millions of members.

Liam Dillon reports at The Los Angeles Times that Uber has many supporters in California.
In April, more than 100,000 Californians drove for Uber and a whopping 2.3 million people took Uber rides in the state, said the company's director of public affairs, Aaron McLear.
“Counting our drivers, that’s 2.4 million different people who used our technology last month,” McLear said. “That’s a giant shared constituency with these policy makers.”
Uber doesn’t hesitate to use its network.
A day before the California Public Utilities Commission, the agency that regulates the ride-hailing industry, was set to roll out new regulations last month, Uber sent out a note to its drivers and customers with a link to contact CPUC commissioners. The company didn’t like a proposed regulation that would have limited the ability to rent cars to drive them for Uber.Uber's email to customers before an April CPUC decision
Uber and Lyft have encouraged potential drivers to rent cars to boost their supply of workers, but regulators are concerned that liberal rules would lead to weaker driver training and vehicle inspections. At the hearing, the CPUC decided to punt on the issue and commissioners noted they’d received thousands of emails from Uber supporters.
The companies have ramped up traditional lobbying efforts, too. Three years ago, neither company had lobbyists. Now, they have a gaggle of them.
In the current legislative session, Uber and Lyft have spent nearly $900,000 combined on lobbying. Uber alone reached the top 3% of organizations in lobbyist spending at the Capitol last year. These figures don’t count efforts to support the companies in Sacramento by technology-affiliated organizations such as TechNet and the Internet Assn.