Uber, Lyft Give California GOP Millions While Fighting Driver Reclassification

The Yes on Proposition 22 gave $2 million to the California Republican Party last Friday.
GettyImages-969118284 (3)

The Yes on Proposition 22 campaign—a ballot initiative bankrolled by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates to permanently protect themselves from reclassifying California drivers as employees—has donated $2 million to California's Republican Party. 

The revelation was posted to Twitter on Monday by KPFA Radio reporter Ariel Boone. The donation was made on Friday, with additional contributions made exclusively to Ventura County and Santa Clara County Republican parties for an additional $20,000 and $2,593.15, respectively.


According to campaign finance records, the companies have contributed $184.3 million to the Yes on Proposition 22 campaign’s war chest as of September 18. In a deep dive into the campaign’s advertising operations, Darak Kerr of CNET found it had already spent millions on digital advertising, but that was likely only "a small fraction" of what would be spent on television advertisements. Here lies another way the campaign’s money is being redirected to the GOP: consulting groups and lobbyists.

The Chris Mottola Consulting—founded by a former GOP operative and responsible for multiple ad campaigns for prominent GOP politicians—has helped craft multiple ads for the Yes on Prop 22 campaign. According to its website, advertisements that "tell the story of victims, villains, heroes and actions.” Uber and Lyft have also deployed a record number of lobbyists this year, many of whom have worked for prominent Republican lawmakers

Generally, Democrats have been publicly supportive of California’s Assembly Bill 5, which Proposition 22 seeks to exempt gig companies from complying with, while the GOP has vocally opposed it. 

During the Democratic nomination race, prominent candidates including Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris (whose brother-in-law Tony West is Uber's general counsel), expressed support for Assembly Bill 5h. After reluctant support for protesting ride-hail drivers, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden came around to supporting AB5


Assembly Bill 5 has been regarded much more coldly by the GOP, however, especially by prominent figures such as Senator Ted Cruz, who attacked AB5 as part of a "daily war on jobs", and Representative Dan Crenshaw, who pointed at the bill as proof that "Republicans are the party of Uber" while "Democrats are the party of taxi cab unions."

“It was only a matter of time before they embraced the political party [that] wants what they want,” Edan Alva, a ride-hail driver and organizer with driver advocacy group Gig Workers Rising. “They’ll do anything to protect their wage theft long enough to find a way to profit from it. Donating to the GOP hurts workers and drivers, but that’s what they’ve been doing all along.”

By comparison, the No on Proposition 22 campaign—financed largely by driver advocacy groups and unions—has raised a comparatively humble $5.6 million. To make up for the fact that they have almost 33 times less money than the gig company campaign, drivers have relied on generating attention through protests, press conferences, and actions meant to raise awareness of driver misclassification, poor working conditions in the industry, and exploitative labor practices.

“Early on during this crisis, I had to work even when I was sick. Even then, that was not enough and I almost found myself without a roof over my head,” Alva said. “That is what these people are spending millions to defend. Not making sure we are safe, secure, well-paid, or have benefits, but whether we can help them one day make money. They won't stop with our industry. They'll spread this to every industry if they can.”