Money Doesn’t Talk, It Swears

Uber and Lyft spending $8 million-plus to sell Proposition 1

In the last month, Ridesharing Works for Austin – the PAC established by transportation network companies Uber and Lyft – raised $4.9 million and spent $4.6 million promoting Prop. 1, the TNC-supported ride-hailing ordinance. With another million in the pipeline, that brings to $8.1 million the amount TNCs intend to spend for the May 7 election.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia: Jerico

That was the headline news contained in Friday’s “8-day-out” reports filed with the Austin City Clerk. By contrast, Prop. 1 opposition group Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice raised $88,000 over the last month (spending $68,000), bringing the group’s fundraising to $100,000 for the campaign thus far.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, RWA reported an additional $1 million contribution from Uber just before the filing deadline, for a total of $8.1 million. In case your calculator is overheated, that’s more than an 80 to 1 advantage to the Uber and Lyft resources, and a staggering record for money spent in an Austin city election – the previous standard was $1.2 million spent by Mayor Steve Adler in his 2014 campaign. Even the generally stoic Statesman transportation reporter Ben Wear began a Friday Tweet on the Uber and Lyft spending with “Mother of God” and ended: “Mind=boggled.”

A few highlights from the RWA 8-day-out (30-day) report:

• All the money raised and spent by Ridesharing Works was contributed either in funds ($4.2 million) or in kind ($752,000) by Uber and Lyft

• $791,000 was paid to D.C.-based Block by Block consultants for “field work and get out the vote effort”

• $523,100 went to Bully Pulpit Interactive (also based in D.C.) primarily for (non-itemized) “media buys”

• Another $2 million for media buys (with considerably more in the pipeline) is flowing through Link Strategies, which has an Austin address but appears to be based in Des Moines, Iowa

• $25,000 was paid to former Austin mayor and RWA spokesman Lee Leffingwell for “campaign consulting,” with another $25,000 committed

• $12,000 each went to local consultants Joe Bowen and Huey Rey Fischer, less than the rumored $15,000, but not yet including potential “win bonuses.” (Consultants Patrick McDonald, Jovita Pardo, and Pedro Villalobos have thus far received $6,000 each)

Highlights from the Our City 8-day-out (30-day) report:

• Most of the $88,000 was raised from individual contributions, but Stratus Properties gave $10,000, Lone Star Cab gave $3,000, the AFSCME union local and the Austin Council of the AFL-CIO each gave $5,000

• $10,000 was spent on print ads in the Austin Chronicle

• $2,600 was spent on Facebook ads

• $8,100 was paid to Kelly Graphics for pushcards and mailers

• $24,000 went to Rindy Miller Media for website design, radio ads, and other services

• $16,000 went to Mykle Tomlinson and Y Strategies for consulting, field work, and a call center

A smaller Prop. 1 opposition group, Austin Unites, has raised about $3,000 (about half of it in-kind contributions), and had $1,380 on hand as of Friday.

Contribution and Expenditure reports for all three groups are available for review on the City Clerk website.

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Election May 2016, transportation network companies, Ridesharing Works for Austin, Our City Our Safety Our Choice, Austin Unites, Contribution and Expenditure Reports

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