Appointment of Laphonza Butler Raises Questions About Corporate Ties and Influence in Senate
Laphonza Butler’s appointment to a vacant Senate seat in California has sparked concerns about her past corporate consulting roles, particularly her work with Uber and Airbnb. (Photo: The New York Times)
Controversial Corporate Consulting Past Casts Shadows Over Laphonza Butler’s Senate Appointment
According to the Politico article, California Governor Gavin Newsom’s appointment of Laphonza Butler to the Senate seat left vacant by the late Dianne Feinstein has brought attention to her past corporate consulting roles. Laphonza Butler’s career includes stints at SCRB Strategies (formerly SCN Strategies and now Bearstar Strategies) and Airbnb’s government affairs team.
SCRB Strategies, a prominent California firm, boasts a clientele that includes Vice President Kamala Harris and other influential figures like Newsom, former Governor Jerry Brown, the DCCC, and Senator Alex Padilla. The firm also worked on Representative Katie Porter’s inaugural congressional campaign, potentially setting up a rivalry with Laphonza Butler should she run for a full Senate term.
However, it is Butler’s corporate consulting work that has garnered scrutiny. She was involved with SCRB Strategies, which received $185,000 from Uber in 2019-2020 for its services. This period coincided with labor disputes and legislative battles in California, where gig companies like Uber clashed with labor groups over worker classification and benefits.
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Former SEIU Organizer Turned Senator Raises Concerns Over Big Tech Ties and Labor Advocacy in Uber and Airbnb Mediation
During this time, Bloomberg reported that Laphonza Butler, a former labor organizer with extensive experience in the SEIU’s California chapter, advised Uber and acted as a mediator in its interactions with unions while the gig worker bill was under legislative consideration. The bill ultimately led to a contentious battle in which Uber and its coalition spent over $200 million to secure an exemption for app-based companies.
In light of Butler’s past work for Uber, some watchdog groups have expressed concerns about her role as a senator, particularly on issues related to Big Tech and labor. Beyond Uber, Laphonza Butler also applied her organizing background to assist Airbnb in navigating political complexities.
Her tenure with Airbnb coincided with efforts to address issues such as parties at Airbnb rentals, housing affordability concerns, and government tax collection. She advocated for rural broadband expansion through the bipartisan infrastructure bill and engaged in discussions on antitrust, small business, and Section 230.