Uber, it seems, is sinking to new lows. The car-booking company and its favorite celebrity investor, Ashton Kutchner, have gone on the warpath against a blogger named Sarah Lacy. Various online sources indicate that Uber’s senior president of business, Emil Michael, proposed spending $1 million to hire journalists to dig up dirt on reporters that criticize the ridesharing company.
BuzzFeed reported that Michael is mad at Lacy because she has criticized Uber as sexist at her blog PandoDaily. She also complained that Uber has an “asshole culture” and “screws its drivers.” It looks as if her remarks might be right on.
Another reason why Uber might not like Ms. Lacy is that PandoDaily noted that the city of Toronto is trying to ban Uber. Toronto authorities are after Uber because it was operating cabs without a license and not following city standards on things like safety and driver training.
Uber quickly denied that it was targeting Ms. Lacy, but Uber investor Ashton Kutchner quickly moved to defend the questionable company. Kutchner attacked Lacy because she dared to raise questions about Uber in which he, like Will Smith, is apparently an investor. Kutcher attacked Lacy as shady and accused her of not investigating sources.
Uber, it seems, has both a credibility problem and a very bad reputation that seems to be getting worse. The company is also up to its head in very sleazy politics. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has gone out of his way to say how much he “loves Obamacare.”
Does Uber Really Love Obamacare?
At a dinner for reporters, Kalanick claimed Obamacare was huge for his business because it made it easier for people to become Uber drivers. It isn’t clear if Kalanick believes these claims or not. A cynic might say he is simply kissing up to the Democratic Party and liberal journalists that believe the Obamacare fairy tale.
Interestingly enough, when the Washington Post’s Wonk Blog looked into Kalanick’s Obamacare claims, it could not find any proof of them. One way that Obamacare might help Uber is by expanding Medicaid to cover all adults who make less than the federal poverty level. If Uber drivers make less than the poverty level, they would be eligible for Medicaid, which means taxpayers could be effectively financing Uber.
It should be noted here that Uber effectively gets around Obamacare’s employer health insurance requirement by classifying its workers as independent contractors. Kalanick both evades the law and potentially profits from it.
Kalanick is going to need Democrat support to keep Uber in business in big cities like New York, as well as heavily Democratic states like Nevada. The company has already hired a veteran Democratic Party operative, David Plouffe, who managed President Obama’s election campaign in 2008 as “vice president of policy and strategy.”
Supporting Obamacare is a cheap way of getting Democratic support and making Kalanick a “hero” to liberal reporters. It is also a savvy and sleazy public relations stunt that some journalists already seem to have fallen for.
He might also need Democratic support to fight off the Teamsters Union, which is talking about organizing Uber drivers. In Southern California, a group called the California App-Based Drivers Association has formalized its relationship with Teamsters Local 986. In other words, some Uber drivers are talking about unionizing.
One has to wonder how a company that is desperately kissing up to politicians and reporters is worth $18 billion. Perhaps the real reason Uber is attacking reporters is that it doesn’t want them to print the truth about its finances, or lack thereof.