Uber has tapped a top ally and major fundraiser for President Donald Trump as the ride-hailing company tries to lobby for friendlier regulation — and a bit less scrutiny — in a Republican-dominated Washington, D.C.
In an ethics disclosure quietly filed to Congress this week, Uber revealed it had hired the firm Ballard Partners and its leading lobbyist, Brian Ballard, to "advise and advocate for [the company] on general government policies and regulations" in the nation's capital.
Politically, Uber has plenty at stake — whether it's fighting a new federal probe into its privacy and data-security practices or pushing for new rules that might allow it to test more driverless vehicles on U.S. roads.
What Uber lacks, however, is much of a Washington, D.C.-focused staff, following the departure of a number of its policy-minded employees — including Rachel Whetstone, who shaped the company's political strategy while running communications, and Niki Christoff, the leader of Uber's office in the nation's capital. One of Uber's other Republican lobbyists, Brian Worth, left earlier this year.
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Uber previously had worked with the Trump-aligned Ballard in Florida, where it for years faced restrictions on its operations. But Uber's decision to hire him again in Washington, D.C., this month still reflects the great degree to which tech companies are trying to forge new ties with a president that many in liberal-leaning Silicon Valley did not support during the 2016 election.
Amazon, for example, hired Ballard Partners earlier this year, months after the company's chief executive, Jeff Bezos, sparred with Trump publicly. Others like Google have hired new D.C.-based employees with deep ties to conservative lawmakers.
A spokesman for Uber declined to comment for this story.
—By Tony Romm, Recode.net.
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