David Plouffe, the former campaign manager and political strategist for President Barack Obama, will try to help Uber navigate the sometimes-troubled regulatory waters, The New York Times reports. Plouffe will serve as the ride-calling service’s senior vice president of policy and strategy.
Uber is beloved by plenty of its users, but is far less popular with some local and state governments, which argue that its drivers should face similar regulations to traditional taxi services. Taxi companies pretty much just hate the highly-valued startup. (For that matter, so do other sharing-economy car service startups.)
Plouthe’s hiring figures to put the company in a better position to work with—or around—regulators, the Times reports, and to go head-to-head with the livery lobby.
The hiring of a politically skilled executive has practically become a sign of adolescence for tech start-ups, marking the moment when they realize that navigating government can be as essential as maneuvering past competition.
But to the extent they differ, Plouffe’s political, rather than governmental, experience attracted Uber’s interest, the company says. From the Times:
Mr. Plouffe, whom Uber described as its official "campaign manager" in a blog post, will be responsible for the company's policy efforts, branding decisions and overall strategy and communications....
"Uber has been in a political campaign but hasn't been running one," (Uber CEO Travis) Kalanick said in a statement. "That is changing now"
BetaBoston notes that Plouffe also worked on both of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s campaigns. Patrick issued a comment praising Plouffe, leading Beta’s Kyle Alspach to think: “Wonder if taxi drivers around here like hearing their governor praise a big decision by Uber when they are fighting against Uber so hard?”
Uber has been looking for somebody to give it an edge on the policy side. In July, tech news site re/code reported Uber “has been aggressively seeking a senior executive who has run political campaigns, or who has run cities, to battle the entrenched forces mustered by Kalanick’s dreaded taxi industry.” re/code reported at the time that former White House press secretary Jay Carney had been approached about such a position.