Guess which startup is backing Gavin Newsom’s run for governor?
Thanks to his unofficial political role as Patron Saint of the Gig Economy, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is getting a huge bump in contributions from Airbnb in his bid to become California’s 40th governor.
A new analysis by MapLight, a Berkeley nonpartisan group that tracks political spending and its influence, shows that Newsom has received $225,850 from Airbnb employees who support Newsom’ 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
Contributions, as of last Monday, to his main rivals pale by comparison: Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and California Treasurer John Chiang, reported their largest contributions from any one source have barely topped $100,000.
The company declined to comment on the donations, which included maximum individual amounts of $56,400 contributed by Brian Chesky, the company’s chief executive; Laurence Tosi, Airbnb chief financial officer; and Stephen Conley, Head of Global Hospitality & Strategy. Newsom also received $56,400 from co-founder Joe Gebbia, and $250 from Laura Spanjian, Public Policy Director.
Conley, who started the hotel chain Joie de Vivre Hospitality when he was 26 by taking an inner-city motel and turning it into a boutique hotel chain known around the world, serves on the boards of the Burning Man Project and the Esalen Institute. He once served on the board at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, where Rev. Cecil Williams once called his leaderhsip “brilliant and bold, courageous and compassionate, and radically inclusive of all cultures. He walks that walk!”
Spanjian once ran for supervisor in San Francisco when Newsom was mayor but she left the race and moved to Houston where she served as sustainability director for then-Mayor Annise Parker.
The short-term rental giant’s generosity to Newsom’s campaign shouldn’t come as a surprise. Although activists have argued that Airbnb offerings are restricting the availability of affordable Bay Area housing, Newsom has emerged as a major political booster of the gig economy, which also includes services Uber and Lyft, both based in San Francisco.
Newsom criticized the University of California in 2014 for a policy that restricted employees from using services such as Airbnb and Uber. He also campaigned against a 2015 San Francisco referendum that would have limited short-term rentals to 75 days per year. In an advertisement sponsored by Airbnb, Newsom said the measure “goes too far. It’s just too extreme.” The measure failed, gaining only 45 percent of the vote.
A company spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the contributions.
With 20 months remaining before the election, the three major Democratic contenders have collectively raised about $19.1 million in campaign funds in their bid to replace term-limited Gov. Jerry Brown.
Other big supporters of Newsom include employees at the San Francisco private equity firm Tao Capital Partners, which has given $209,200 to the lieutenant governor, and the Wonderful Company, a Los Angeles-based holding company, which has donated $112,900. Other major boosters include workers at San Francisco companies such as cloud-computing giant Salesforce ($86,400) and Twitter ($84,800).