Airbnb Is Mobilizing Its Customers to Fight for the Right to Make Money Renting Out Unused Space

The room rental service got a taste of power in a key San Francisco win, and liked it

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Fresh off organizing a voting base that successfully stopped a proposal to place limits on short-term rentals in San Francisco, Airbnb has announced a plan to organize voting blocs in other cities, making it easier to mobilize its customers as it fights political battles on many fronts.

Airbnb has traditionally had as cozy of a relationship with local politicos as it could afford to spend, but either emboldened by Tuesday’s victory or influenced by new head of policy Chris Lehane — a former aid to Bill Clinton hired in August — Airbnb has decided to take a more preemptive approach.

Lehane is at least confident of the company’s muscle when he compared its influence to that of the NRA after the San Fransisco election. Roughly 55 percent of the ballots went Airbnb’s way.

“We began to think about this election in a little bit of a different way,” Lehane said in a statement after the win. “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?”

By recruiting an Airbnb army the company could also be mimicking the better-to-ask-for-forgiveness-than-ask-permission mindset that’s served Uber’s aggressive expansion.