After Victory, Airbnb Compares Its Influence to the NRA’s
With Proposition F—the San Francisco ballot measure to restrict Airbnb and other short-term rentals—failing after votes were tallied last night, the home-sharing company at the center of the controversy invited members of the press to a debriefing at its San Francisco headquarters this morning. Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s head of global public policy and a former aide to Bill Clinton, detailed what the company felt it learned from its successful campaign against Prop F. In particular, he said, the company realized it could organize and mobilize its enormous base of Airbnb users, both hosts and guests.
“We began to think about this election in a little bit of a different way,” Lehane said. “Was there something we could do? We had this big base of support, the light bulb went off in our heads. Could we actually organize and activize (sic) this community and change what the voter pool in San Francisco was going to look like?”
At one point, presenting the company’s prepared slides, Lehane compared the influence of the Airbnb community to the National Rifle Association. Airbnb now has over 4 million members, both hosts and guests, compared to the NRA’s 5.1 million members. “The [Airbnb] voting bloc that is growing is a formidable constituency,” Lehane said, comparing Airbnb’s numbers to the NRA, the Sierra Club, teachers in the National Education Association and pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign members.
Airbnb said during the presentation that it ultimately spent more than $8.5 million in its campaign against the ballot measure.
Airbnb Launches ‘100 Clubs’
Airbnb seems to be seeking to ride its Prop F win to aggressively promote its mission to help people “belong anywhere”—and push back against what it sees as overregulation—around the world. As part of that, Lehane said Airbnb was forming “100 Clubs,” a network of home-sharing “guilds” in cities across the US—though the effort could conceivably expand even further. “We’re going to use the momentum of what took place here to do what we did in San Francisco around the world,” Lehane said.
Airbnb says it will provide resources and some infrastructure to these local groups but expects hosts and guests to ultimately run them as the clubs proliferate in the same “grassroots” manner that Airbnb itself has grown. The clubs are meant to organize and advocate for home-sharing with their local city councils and elsewhere in the community. When pressed, Lehane declined to specify how much, exactly, Airbnb would spend on the clubs.
“I think we have made clear that we are willing to put our money where our mouth is when it comes to supporting our hosts and our guests,” Lehane said during the news conference. “There is very much a seriousness of purpose and approach when we look at what we’re going to be doing with these clubs going forward.”
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