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Uber Technologies Inc. spent a record on federal lobbying in the first three months as it seeks to emerge from a series of scandals and change gears in Washington under new leadership.
The ride-hailing company disclosed spending $540,000 in the first quarter of 2018, up from $510,000 in the last quarter of 2017 and from its previous quarterly record of $520,000 in the third quarter.
The rise in Uber’s lobbying spend coincides with a changing of the guard in the company’s leadership ranks. Uber’s Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi, who was appointed in August, made his first trip to Washington earlier this month, where Danielle Burr become its head of federal affairs in January. Burr previously worked under House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
The San Francisco, California-based company is seeking to craft a new reputation in Washington and beyond after years of negative revelations ranging from spying on passengers to a fatal driverless-car incident to allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination.
Uber spokeswoman Carly DeBeikes declined to comment on the company’s lobbying record or its strategy in Washington.
To be sure, Uber is a relatively new entrant on the lobbying scene compared with other technology companies. Its spending pales against that of giants such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc., which spent more than $18 million and $11.5 million respectively last year.
Uber started lobbying in the capitol in 2013, but didn’t spend more than $100,000 in a single quarter until 2015. Over the years, most of Uber’s lobbying efforts have focused on state capitols as it seeks to fend off regulatory threats that might cap the company’s growth or force it to change its business model.
The company reported lobbying federal policymakers on legislation governing self-driving cars, the future of work and “anti-competitive activities that could limit consumers’ access to app-based technologies,” according to its first-quarter lobbying disclosures Friday.
Uber’s short tenure in Washington politics has already been rocky. Former CEO Travis Kalanick, who resigned last year, faced intense backlash from riders and drivers when he agreed to join President Donald Trump’s advisory council — a decision he later reversed.
Uber executive John Flynn defended the company’s cybersecurity practices in February during a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing over its handling of an October 2016 data breach that the company concealed for more than a year. In the incident, which Bloomberg News reported last November, hackers stole the personal data of customers and drivers and the company paid them $100,000 to delete it and keep the breach quiet.
Not all of Uber’s leadership has changed with the CEO reshuffle. Jill Hazelbaker, who runs Uber’s policy and communications, was hired by Kalanick and has stayed in the job under Khosrowshahi.
–With assistance from Eric Newcomer and Ben Brody
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.