Former Uber strategist David Plouffe fined $90,000 for illegal lobbying

Chicago officials have slapped David Plouffe with a hefty $90,000 fine, claiming he lobbied for Uber without properly registering with the city.

The Chicago ethics board voted unanimously to fine Plouffe for violating the Government Ethics Ordinance by failing to register as a lobbyist, according to a Reuters report. The board says he lobbied Chicago city officials on behalf of Uber on Nov. 20. 2015, but failed to register until April 13, 2016.

Uber acknowledged the error in a statement emailed to SiliconBeat.

“We work hard to ensure our registrations are accurate and up to date,” a spokeswoman wrote. “We regret that in this instance we made a mistake and we will comply with the board’s assessment.”

Plouffe, who served as an adviser to former President Barack Obama before joining Uber as the company’s senior vice president of policy and strategy in 2014, now is president of policy and advocacy for the Chan Zuckerberg initiative — Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropy organization.

Plouffe joined Uber while the San Francisco-based company was in the midst of some major PR woes — Uber was facing tough regulatory battles in many states, opposition from the taxi industry and attacks from the public over the safety of its rides and other issues. Plouffe, who many credit as the architect of Obama’s presidential campaign, was brought in to help Uber turn that negative image around.

It appears Uber still has Plouffe’s back. The company, which also was slapped with a $2,000 fine of its own, sent the ethics board a letter objecting to the size of Plouffe’s fine, according to Reuters. Uber argued Plouffe should be charged no more than $1,000.

Earlier this month the Better Government Association, an Illinois government watchdog group, reported Plouffe was under investigation over emails he sent to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. In a November 2015 exchange, Plouffe urged Emanuel to smooth over problems Uber drivers were having in implementing a recent agreement that was supposed to allow drivers to take passengers to and from city airports and the McCormick Place convention center.

Emanuel, who was in China at the time, told Plouffe to work out the issues with two of his top aides in City Hall, according to the Better Government Association.

Uber responded to those allegations in a January statement.

“We take compliance seriously,” spokeswoman Molly Spaeth said in a statement, according to the Better Government Association. “We’re always working to ensure registrations are accurate and kept up-to-date, but in this case there was an oversight.”

Photo: The logo of ride-sharing company Uber is seen in front of its headquarters on August 26, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

 

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