Airbnb’s Growing Bag of Dirty Tricks

Another week and more of the same: Airbnb’s dirty tricks. New evidence proves that Airbnb thinks the rules don’t apply to it.

A report from the Chicago Tribune on the release of thousands of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s emails shows that the mayor’s personal accounts “served as a private avenue of influence where executives and investors sought favorable action from City Hall.”

Enter Airbnb.

Two individuals emailed Emanuel on Airbnb’s behalf as the city considered “new regulations for the company that would dictate which types of owners could rent their homes and how much in city taxes they would pay.”

Tech investor and Airbnb adviser Marc Andreessen emailed Emanuel requesting he meet with top Airbnb executives to “discuss the shifting home sharing regulatory landscape” and shared the company’s concerns about potential draft regulations for short-term rentals in Chicago.

Emanuel also received multiple emails on behalf of Airbnb leadership from former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly.

Kelly’s spokeswoman told the Tribune that Kelly “has no formal or financial relationship with Airbnb” and “simply passed along a friend’s request for a meeting.”

Apparently, Airbnb doesn’t mind letting its friends face fines of up to $187,000 for lobbying violations.

And that’s not all, folks. Airbnb has more in its bag of dirty tricks.

A local Cambridge, Mass. news outlet reported that a citizens petition filed over proposed rules for Airbnb hosts in the city was discovered to be written by Airbnb with the help of a lobbying firm.

When none of the petition’s signers came to the City Council meeting to speak in favor of the issue, many angry residents viewed it as a sham.

“This opens the unsettling implication that our citizen petition process, something at the very core of local governance, has been commandeered by a multinational, privately held company for corporate purposes. This sort of large-scale commercially sponsored legislation is simply unacceptable in our city,” said Cambridge City Councilor Craig Kelley.

Ouch.

In the end, Chicago’s short-term rental regulations passed despite Airbnb’s backdoor lobbying, and Cambridge City Council plans to hold a hearing on short-term rentals next month and Airbnb’s sham petition won’t be considered. But both are cautionary tales: Airbnb will stop at nothing to get what it wants.