With Uber’s new hire, Obama alumni invade Silicon Valley
There’s been some huffing and puffing this afternoon about the announcement by David Plouffe, mastermind of Obama’s 2008 presidential bid, that he’s joining Uber to repeat the trick for the car service company as it continues its campaign against the taxi industry across the map.
For one thing, as Fortune’s own Dan Primack points out, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is an avowed libertarian. So there’s something kind of rich about him hiring the guy who made his name marshaling lefty support — including organized labor, now fighting to unionize Uber drivers — to get Obama into the White House.
It’s easy to forget the candidate Plouffe helped elect didn’t just win by out-hustling his competition in embracing new technology, he promised to lead that way, too — easy, because whatever was left of those dreams of an “iPod government” died for most people with the disastrous rollout of the healthcare.gov site last year.
But the depth of the alignment between this administration and Silicon Valley is revealed in the long line of gigs that Obama alums are still busy lining up in the industry. Long before Plouffe made this afternoon’s headlines, Obama’s charter press secretary Robert Gibbs played footsy with Facebook. More recently, he stirred outrage on the left when news broke that his firm — which includes Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the 2012 campaign, and Jon Jones, a digital strategist from the 2008 effort — had signed up with a group launching a legal assault on teacher tenure, modeling itself after a California push funded by Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur David Welch. Gibbs’ successor, Jay Carney, is rumored to be in the running to become the top flak at Apple. In the last year, Plouffe’s successor, 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina, joined the boards of two clean-tech outfits, Opower and LanzaTech. Natalie Foster, another digital organizer for Obama, now runs a group that shills for Airbnb. Jeremy Bird, Obama’s 2012 national field director, is advising Ro Khanna, a technology lawyer drawing wide tech industry support in his bid to unseat longtime Democratic incumbent Rep. Mike Honda. Katie Jacobs Stanton spun all the way through the revolving door, quitting Google for tours of duty at the White House and the State Department before joining Twitter, where she is now the vice president of global media.
Am I missing some? Almost certainly.
Back in Washington, it’s striking to see the degree to which Obama is no longer tilting against the order he was first elected to depose as he is shrugging at it, apparently accepting that it will outlast him and there’s little he can do about it with the time he’s got left in office. In the meantime, the exodus of Obama talent to Silicon Valley could presage what the president himself will do with the rest of his career when he leaves office at 55. One thing he’ll know for sure: It’s a good paycheck.