Uber, Lyft reveal how deep their pockets go
Uber and Lyft have disrupted all previously held notions of what is normal for campaign finance in Austin after making jaw-dropping contributions to a political action committee fighting for friendlier regulations of the corporations’ ride-hailing services.
Thirty days ahead of the May 7 election on Proposition 1, Ridesharing Works for Austin filed a finance report that reported a total haul of $2,167,540.24 since January. The entirety of that sum, down to the last cent, came from the two San Francisco-based corporations.
The six-figure report – which stands at nearly 29 times the median household income for a family of four in Travis County – looms large over the PAC’s primary opponent, the Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice PAC. According to that group’s filing, it managed to raise just over $12,000 since January. However, all but one of its 51 individual donors listed an Austin-area address.
Both Ridesharing Works and Our City are fighting for voters’ support in the special May election. City Council called for the election in February after a petition drive supported by Ridesharing Works gathered enough signatures to place a new set of rules for ride-hailing services on the ballot. That effort came in response to stricter regulations – approved by Council in December – that included fingerprint-based background checks for drivers.
Another group opposed to Prop 1 also filed finance reports on Thursday. Austin Unites said it took in $1,620.80. All but $100 of that was in-kind contributions for stickers and a website.
Those in-kind contributions were higher in proportion but otherwise paled in comparison to those reported by Ridesharing Works. Nearly two-thirds of its gigantic injection of resources was provided as services paid for by Uber and Lyft. The $1,378,790.24 value includes items such as several one-time payments of consultant fees worth $75,000 each.
Uber and Lyft split the cash donations to the PAC roughly evenly. Of the total $788,750 they gave to Ridesharing Works, Lyft chipped in $401,000 while Uber peeled off $387,750.
To put the twin transportation network companies’ campaign finance bonanza in perspective, the most recent deep-pocketed PAC to support a city ballot proposition, Let’s Go Austin, reported pulling in $485,876 just 30 days before the 2014 urban rail bond election. In that case, the huge war chest proved a waste, since that bond lost by a significant margin.
All three groups will file a second round of campaign finance reports on April 29.
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