Members of Congress Love Uber

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WASHINGTON, DC  - JULY 16: Brendan Kownacki rides in the UBER Car that he beckon via a smartphone app in Washington, DC on July 16, 2012.  He pays a little more than cabs but says it's worth it.  It's automatically billed to his credit card, tip included, and the quality of the cars and drivers leaves no surprises for him or his clients.  (Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post)
Photo: Linda Davidson/The Washington Post

Lawmakers: They love Uber.

The nitty-gritty statistical evidence comes from Hamilton Place Strategies, a Washington-based consultancy, which found that the ride-hailing service went from a zero percent share of taxi rides taken by campaign staffers in the 2010 election cycle to a 61 percent share in 2014. (The study looked at trips that cost less than $100 listed on the Federal Election Commission filings of congressional campaign committees.) The change is dramatic: During the 2012 elections, campaigns took about 100 rides in Uber cars and 2,800 in standard cabs. In 2014, they took rides in 2,800 in Ubers and 1,800 in taxis.

That bodes well for the multi-billion-dollar start-up, which is fighting vicious regulatory battles across the country, right? Well, not so fast. Those fights are primarily against city councils and local regulatory commissions, not the bigwigs in Washington.

But even so, there might be knock-on effects from the top down, Hamilton Place Strategies thinks. And those local officials might be just as enthralled with Uber as their federal colleagues. “It is likely that the same dynamics impacting Congress are also happening in communities across the country,” it says. “Furthermore, as members of Congress become early adopters and consumers they may exert an influence on their local counterparts.”

To see the evidence of that influence, take a look at this tweet from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter:

A highly visible politician is publicly calling out the mostly invisible political cogs making the decisions about who can operate a taxi in the city and how. There are many other examples of political elites pushing for Uber, too:

The Republican National Committee has circulated a petition of support for the company. And Uber has also hired Obama hand David Plouffe and a small army of lobbyists to help bolster its political influence.

It’s a rare cause that can enlist both David Plouffe and Grover Norquist — and a good demonstration of how support for Uber breaks down on class lines, not ideological lines. Rich and powerful Democrats, Republicans, liberals, and libertarians love Uber, because they use it. They live in the big cities where the service operates. They have the charge accounts or disposable income to burn. Uber’s most vociferous opposition, on the other hand, comes from cab drivers, whose annual earnings tend be about $25,000 or $30,000 a year.

That might be simplifying it a little too much: Holders of taxi medallions, taxi commissions, and various limousine services have no love for the company either, and in some cases have lobbied hard against Uber, Lyft, and other services. Nevertheless, the company has as moneyed and politically savvy a constituency as you could ask for behind it, and a bipartisan one, too, as evidenced by all those Hill staffers’ rides.