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Home sharing company Airbnb Inc. has launched a political committee called People versus the Powerful to support pro-Airbnb candidates in Florida elections, according to a campaign finance disclosure.
The purpose of the political committee is “supporting or opposing statewide, legislative, multi-county and local candidates,” according to a Florida campaign finance filing first reported by the blog Florida Politics Friday.
Airbnb has tangled with local, state and federal politicians who oppose letting individuals rent rooms in their houses to guests without many regulatory hoops.
“Our 34,000 Florida hosts face unprecedented attacks from powerful interest groups both in Washington D.C. and Tallahassee,” Airbnb spokesman Benjamin Breit told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Our host community deserves a voice, and we will always have their backs.”
The People versus the Powerful committee, created on April 6, has $1 million in seed money from the corporate office, and is similar to Airbnb’s Stronger Neighborhoods PAC created in 2016, which operates in New York. As a Florida-based committee, People versus the Powerful cannot fund candidates for federal office.
The committee’s name is identical to a slogan used in former Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 unsuccessful presidential campaign. The “people versus the powerful” message failed to resonate when spoken by the outgoing vice president.
“The vice president talks about ‘the people versus the powerful,’” then-candidate George W. Bush said during the campaign. ”But, in all his plans, who ends up with the power? Who always ends up making the choices? Not the taxpayers, but the tax collectors.”
Breit was not aware of whether the name is a throwback to Gore’s presidential campaign. Chris Lehane, Gore’s press secretary in the 2000 campaign, was hired by Airbnb in 2015 as the policy director to engage in political advocacy on behalf of the company.
Airbnb’s increasing advocacy in local and state elections is part of a strategy for dealing with regulators, which have at times placed roadblocks to homeowners’ abilities to rent their house over the internet in competition with hotels.
The Washington, D.C. city council proposed legislation in February that would require individuals to register as small business owners to rent rooms using Airbnb’s service. (RELATED: New Bill In DC City Council Wants To Crack Down On Airbnb Rentals)
The company has a federal lobbying arm in Washington, but “We’ve learned that a lot of this is local,” Alfred Lin, an Airbnb board member and Sequoia Capital partner told The Washington Post in January. “You can come up with one way to deal with regulators, but you must do it at a city-by-city, sometimes even a street-by-street or block-by-block basis.”
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