Airbnb bolsters its DC lobbying force

Airbnb bolsters its DC lobbying force
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Airbnb is beefing up its federal advocacy presence, bringing on former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.) and the public affairs firm Mercury.

“The good news is, they are smart enough to get involved in this town before they really need anything,” Weber, a partner at the firm, told The Hill on Monday. “They're trying to introduce themselves before there’s any problem to be dealt with on the federal level.”

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Though registration forms only recently appeared in the Senate’s lobbying disclosure database, Mercury has been working on behalf of the company for a few months.

Airbnb, which allows individuals to rent rooms or entire residences on a short-term basis, has drawn the ire of the hospitality industry and some cities — including New York and San Francisco — that say that the website potentially allows people to illegally rent out space with fewer regulations than hotels or bed and breakfasts.

The company has two other lobbying firms on retainer, The Raben Group and The JBH Group, and spent $260,000 for that advocacy last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Those firms boat former Clinton official Robert Raben and former George W. Bush administration official Jamie Brown Hantman, respectively.

At the onset of the tech boom in the 1990s, companies were wary of Washington and kept away from K Street, leaving them unprepared when government became critical of their business practices.

But the next new wave of companies — including Google, Facebook, Uber and Airbnb —big in Washington to stay involved with policymakers.

“At this point, we're not asking anybody to do anything,” Weber said. “There is no legislation or regulation we're trying to impact.”

And the company would like to keep it that way.

 

- This post was updated on April 12.