Las Vegas Sun

June 19, 2021

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Uber makes first political endorsement, backs a Nevada assemblyman

On Sunday, Uber started a campaign to re-elect Republican Assemblyman Derek Armstrong, the first political endorsement the transportation company has made since its founding in 2009.

The decision to back Armstrong with a mailer and emails to constituents was made after the Nevada State Democratic Party ran three anti-Armstrong ads that cast Uber drivers in an unfriendly light.

The ride-hailing company, which received permission to enter Nevada last year, has grown increasingly frustrated by the Democratic Party’s attacks on Armstrong for supporting legislation that provided the framework for ride-hailing companies to operate here. The party’s mailers on behalf of Armstrong’s opponent, attorney Ozzie Fumo, claim the assemblyman did not support criminal background checks for Uber drivers, which “put women and children in danger.”

But the legislation, backed by Armstrong and Democratic legislators, did require Uber to conduct criminal background checks. The sticking point was that the bill exempted ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft from conducting the FBI background check procedure used by cab companies. That decision rankled the taxi industry, which wants legislators to revisit the issue.

“(Armstrong’s) opponent thinks that our driver partners are criminals that pose a threat to public safety,” Uber’s state director wrote Sunday in an email to its drivers. “Assemblyman Armstrong knows that Uber partners actually help make our streets safer. He supports you, which is why we are proud to support him. Let’s keep hard-working, honest, and innovative legislators in office by Ubering to the polls and casting your vote to re-elect Assemblyman Derek Armstrong.”

Republicans have also ran Uber-related ads during the election cycle.

In August, a Republican political action committee suggested in a digital ad that two state Senate candidates could push out Uber and Lyft were they to support FBI background checks during the next legislative session. It came after Senate Minority Leader Aaron Ford, a Democrat who voted for the original Uber framework, told the Sun that he thought the issue was “ripe for discussion.”

Uber and Lyft use commercial background checks, which rely on criminal database searches, but oppose FBI background checks, which rely on fingerprints and take longer to process. The companies have left jurisdictions that require FBI background checks, arguing they clash with their business models and that their current screening processes are comprehensive.

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