Capitol Alert

Who wins in California politics: Uber or taxis?

Foot traffic streams past Ube’s offices on Market Street in San Francisco.
Foot traffic streams past Ube’s offices on Market Street in San Francisco. Bay Area News Group/TNS

Uber, the ridesharing service that’s provoked a wave of new regulations, beefed up its lobbying efforts and stirred the ire of taxicab companies, has become a fashionable mode of transportation for politicians in California, campaign filings show.

And Democrats, who have been accused by their GOP counterparts as seeking to stifle innovation by placing curbs on the industry, were big-time customers.

Since 2013, Uber’s tab for state-level elected officials and candidates neared $6,400, according to campaign finance reports from Jan. 1, 2013, through June 30 of this year.

Uber’s fare exceeded the roughly $4,350 state politicos spent on old-fashioned taxicabs.

The most frequent Uber rider was Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, who the reports show dropped $1,787 on the ridesharing service.

Asked about the charges, which ranged from $4 to $345, Lara said in a statement, “When traveling, I use multiple forms of transportation to get to scheduled activities, including taxis and ride share platforms, interchangeably.”

The second-most prolific passenger was Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who spent $786 on rides, followed by Sen. Isadore Hall of Compton ($697) and Secretary of State Alex Padilla ($635), all Democrats.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, was next at $569, ahead of unsuccessful GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari at $479. The California Republican Party chipped in $500 to Uber, although that figure is not included in the above total, which is limited to individuals.

Meanwhile, the most regular taxi rider was Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, at $1,417. Former Democratic Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra ($316), Attorney Democratic General Kamala Harris ($285), Hall ($223), and Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino ($165), rounded out the field.

Another $1,260 was paid to taxis by the California Democratic Party, while the state GOP shelled out $400; again, only individuals are in the totals.

Politicians’ spending from their campaign accounts must be for a legislative, political or governmental purpose. Also, the above totals don’t reflect anything lawmakers and other officials spent out of their own pockets.

While it’s another company, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, did pay $1,000 to Lyft (like Uber, but with pink mustaches, and optional customer tips). But the payment was a returned campaign contribution, not logged as a rider fare.

De León did, however, report spending $138 on taxis. Take that, Uber.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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