The sharing economy is a fixture in the everyday lives of millions of Americans. They call for rides, share their residences, or stay in a stranger’s home with the swipe of their finger.
Now, we’re seeing just how much both presidential campaigns embraced technologies of the sharing economy during the election cycle.
In the 2012, the sharing economy was just barely getting started as Uber launched its first non-luxury service, UberX, and Airbnb went public. Neither appeared to be used by either Mitt Romney or President Barack Obama’s campaigns. Two years later, Uber appeared on campaign expense filings, but it was the only one.
Fast-forward to 2016, according to a public affairs company which examined federal election data for congressional and presidential candidates, Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and HomeAway all appeared on reports. The results are interesting.
Clinton campaign loved Uber four times more than the Trump camp.
Recode reports: Between the three big on-demand companies, Hillary Clinton’s campaign spent the most money on Uber. During the 2016 election cycle, the Clinton campaign spent $17,011.15 on Uber rides and just $5,826.52 on taxis, nearly four times what Donald Trump’s campaign paid the company. Clinton’s campaign only spent $411.52 on Lyft .
Interestingly, the Trump campaign spent little on ridesharing ($4,791 for Uber and nothing on Lyft), but that was still far more than it spent on taxicabs ($3,780).
The Trump campaign staff made itself at home with Airbnb and HomeAway.
For people working to get a hotel magnate elected, Donald Trump’s campaign spent a decent amount on Airbnb. Trump’s campaign spent $22,660.00 on the home share company and $19,036.00 on competitor HomeAway. These numbers pale in comparison to the $4,579,404.00 the campaign spent on hotel accommodations, but it’s an interesting development considering hotel groups’ opposition to Airbnb’s presence and the looming regulatory obstacles the company is facing in cities like San Francisco and New York.
Hotels are still the preferred choice of accommodations for campaign staffers, however.
According to Fortune:
HPS analyzed hotel transactions reflecting room rentals only and discounted any items incorporating auxiliary travel purchases such as airfares and meals.
About 99.3% of room rental spending by all presidential candidates went to hotels.
Congressional campaigns used hotels more than 11,000 times versus using Airbnb or HomeAway 150 times.
Together, the presidential and congressional candidates spent $264,000 on home-sharing services.
When we compare spending by presidential and congressional campaigns to their rhetoric on the sharing economy, we see the hypocrisy of some candidates. In 2015, Hillary Clinton made her opposition to Uber’s practice of hiring drivers as contractors rather than employees well-known. She boasted that she would "crack down on bosses that exploit employees by misclassifying them as contractors or even steal their wages." Perhaps those talking points didn’t filter down to her campaign staff as they hopped into the back seats of Uber and Lyft vehicles.
On the other hand, the Trump Administration’s Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has been a vocal supporter of sharing economy and Uber.
The sharing economy is an ever-growing slice of our economy and a ubiquitous aspect of our lives and work. It’s incumbent on policymakers then not to treat it tritely or to pass legislation that favors traditional business over those in the sharing economy. At the very least, their rhetoric ought to match their practice.