‘Merican Innovation

08.06.14

Uber Is the RNC's Favorite App

The Republican National Committee started a petition in support of the popular ridesharing app Uber, saying the company is under threat of over-regulation.

The GOP is using Uber as a means to a political end.

This morning the Republican National Committee launched a petition on its website in “support of innovative companies like Uber.”

“Our country was built on the entrepreneurial spirit,” the petition reads. “Our cities deserve innovative and effective solutions without government getting in the way…That’s what innovative businesses like Uber provide. And that’s why our cities need Uber.”

The timing of the petition coincides with the RNC summer meeting set to begin in Chicago today, and could likely serve as a list-building mechanism for future fundraising and Republican support efforts. Kirsten Kukowski, the RNC’s press secretary, told The Daily Beast that the petition is especially important in Chicago now as Democratic incumbent governor Pat Quinn may sign a bill that would impose stricter regulations on Uber drivers in the Midwest city.

“We are currently doing a petition in support of innovative companies and technology like Uber that is being threatened by powerful taxicab associations and legislators whose first instinct is to over-regulate,” Kukowski said.

The state law awaiting Quinn’s decision would require Uber drivers to get a chauffeur’s license if they work at least 18 hours in a given week—which makes the process of becoming a driver for the company a bit more akin to that of being a taxi driver. Without that regulation in place, taxi drivers feel their share of the market dwindling, as opportunistic passengers choose between the old yellow guard and the upstart app.

Uber plans on making Chicago one of its primary hubs, increasing its staff there from 75 to 500 by 2016. The company has unabashedly entered the political foray there, hoping Quinn doesn’t sign the bill, and urging Chicagoans to sign a petition to the governor.

“The issue is larger than Uber,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said. “How many companies, how many products, how many innovations have died prematurely because the government over-reached and interfered in the free market?”

“You face an important decision,” the petition reads. “On the one hand is a monopoly fiercely fighting and lying to shield itself from competition and innovation. On the other hand are hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents who are using and benefiting from a ridesharing technology they love.”

Bruce Rauner, Quinn’s Republican opponent of private equity ilk, already made Uber a campaign issue before the RNC picked up the cause somewhat on his behalf. “I love Uber,” Rauner said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “And we need a state that supports job creation—not runs it off. Ride-share drivers should have insurance and background checks. But Pat Quinn shouldn’t sign this bill—it sends another signal that Illinois is closed to innovation,” he said.

Uber is no stranger to politicization, having recently launched a grassroots campaign to improve its less-than-satisfactory reputation in cities worldwide. Lane Kasselman, a spokesman for Uber, wouldn’t talk specifically on the record about the petition itself and simply said: “Everyone loves Uber.”

But there doesn’t seem to be any coordination between Uber and the RNC on these recent efforts.

“We did this on our own because we support free market, pro-growth, innovative principles Uber employs,” Kukowski told the Daily Beast.

For the RNC, Uber is just one company that represents the decline of free-market capitalism, spearheaded by the Democratic Party.

“The issue is larger than Uber,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in an emailed statement. “How many companies, how many products, how many innovations have died prematurely because the government over-reached and interfered in the free market? Government has a role to play, but that role isn’t to protect the status quo. It should be consumers, not government bureaucrats or legislators, that decide what companies get our business.”