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Published — July 17, 2015

Republican presidential hopefuls: the Uber super users

Jeb Bush, Rand Paul tops when spending on controversial company


Air Force One is Jeb Bush’s dream ride.

In the meantime, he’s content bolstering his tech cred — and needling Democratic presidential rival and “sharing economy” skeptic Hillary Clinton — by publicly embracing Uber.

Bush’s actions go beyond a much-ballyhooed Uber hailing stunt he performed Thursday. The former Florida governor’s presidential campaign booked 67 Uber rides from the controversial transportation booking company that cost nearly $1,400, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of newly released campaign spending records covering activity through June 30.

Fellow Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul even did Bush a few bucks better, with his campaign reporting $1,428 worth of Uber trips through June.

Clinton’s campaign, in contrast, spent just $219 on four Uber rides, disclosures show. The campaigns of fellow Democratic candidates — Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — didn’t spent a dime on Uber, opting for more traditional transportation modes.

Clinton on Monday swiped at the lightly regulated “sharing” industry that includes Uber and short-term travel rental firm Airbnb, saying its growth is “raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.”

Her warnings come as a California judge on Wednesday recommended that Uber be fined $7.3 million and suspended from operating in the state for violating laws. Uber, which in recent months has aggressively lobbied Capitol Hill and statehouses nationwide for favorable rules and regulations, has also endured negative attention over how safe its service really is.

Bush and Paul, for their parts, have touted Uber as a wildly innovative company that provides a low-cost, reliable service and sparks job opportunities.

The presidential candidate spending on Uber trips doesn’t amount to much when cast against the tens of millions of dollars that the 20 major Republican and Democratic presidential candidates have already collectively spent on an election that’s more than 15 months away.

But it indicates that some presidential campaigns are readily embracing new technologies — regardless of how tried and tested they are — that might make their sprawling operations run more efficiently.

Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign spent $1,168, according to federal filings. Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign spent $626. Even Donald Trump’s operation spent $280 on Uber despite its candidate’s penchant for private jets and limousines.

While Republican presidential candidates are more Uber-friendly than their Democratic presidential counterparts, liberal political interests in general are more likely to be Uber super users, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal campaign spending.

Consider that no political committee spent more on Uber rides during 2013 and 2014 — nearly $17,000 — than that of Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis.

Moore was closely followed by Emily’s List, a political committee that advocates for Democratic women who support abortion rights, including Clinton.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Democratic National Committee and American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal super PAC, also spent more than most.

This story was co-published with the Huffington Post.

Read more in Money and Democracy

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