How Swamp Lobbyist David Plouffe Cashed In On The Obama Presidency

Avatar
Written by Dana Sanchez
Being close to Obama has been lucrative for former campaign manager David Plouffe, whose White House experience helped him lead policy at Uber and Facebook. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks onstage at Georgetown University, Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Nick Wass). Senior adviser David Plouffe walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C, April 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Widely considered the architect of President Barack Obama’s two presidential campaign victories, David Plouffe served as presidential advisor through Obama’s reelection before taking his campaign strategies to Silicon Valley.

That close connection with Obama has been lucrative for Plouffe, whose White House connections and experience helped lead policy at Uber and at Facebook’s Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Plouffe serves as a board member of the Barack Obama Foundation, the Chicago-based foundation that has fundraised for a presidential library, museum and headquarters offices. 

Plouffe became the senior vice president of policy and strategy for Uber in 2014. In 2017, he joined Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to lead policy and advocacy. In 2019, Plouffe joined the board of directors of Acronym. A liberal nonprofit focused on digital messaging, Acronym has been linked to an app that has been blamed for botching the Iowa caucuses.

In 2017, the Chicago Board of Ethics fined Plouffe $90,000 for violating ethics rules when he failed to register as a lobbyist before lobbying then-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to help Uber with regulations for picking up travelers at Chicago airports.

Plouffe wasn’t the only Obama staffer who went to Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley became a revolving door for Obama staffers, Washington Post reported in 2015. The affinity between the White House and the tech industry enriched Obama’s campaigns through donations.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 69: Jamarlin Martin

Jamarlin goes solo to unpack the question: Was Barack Obama the first political anti-Christ to rise in Black America?

In charge of branding, communications and policy at Uber, Plouffe would be Uber’s “campaign manager,” then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in a 2014 interview with Politico,

“City Councils are voting on Uber all the time, and we have state legislatures voting on us, on the regular,” Kalanick said. “And there are even some referendums.”

Plouffe moved to San Francisco for the Uber job, paying $7.625 million for a 6,000-square-foot house.

Plouffe had been advising major tech and communications companies since leaving the White House after Obama’s reelection. He described his new job at Uber is analogous to his role as Obama’s campaign manager and White House senior adviser.

Image published in the Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2015

Revolving door

The Obama campaign hired its fair share of former Silicon Valley staffers including Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who helped create Obama’s online campaign platform, Washington Post reported. Google’s former VP of global policy, Andrew McLaughlin, worked on Obama’s tech policy agenda and later joined the administration as a deputy chief technology officer.

Facebook has hired several former White House officials, including Marne Levine, who was chief of staff for former National Economic Council director.

When Plouffe left Uber to join the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, he stayed on as an Uber board member and continued to advise Kalanick personally.

In his new job, Plouffe led political advocacy at the Zuckerberg Initiative, which was founded by Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan in 2015. CZI began as an initiative rather than strictly a charitable organisation so it could participate in political lobbying, make donations and and invest in startups.

The announcement that Obama’s ex-campaign manager would be leading political advocacy at an entity owned by Facebook’s founder came just one week after Zuckerberg announced a U.S. tour. Some speculated that the tour was a sign that Zuckerberg wanted to get more involved in politics.