Airbnb takes aim at its nemesis ShareBetter, alleges illegal lobbying

Hotel industry-backed group paid for ad campaigns, listing spies

State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal
State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal

The battle between Airbnb and its hotel industry-backed nemesis ShareBetter is going into the next round. The hotel listing site plans to file a complaint with the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics alleging that the advocacy group failed to register as a lobbyist.

The move comes barely a week after Bloomberg reported that ShareBetter pays for spies who pose as Airbnb customers to expose illegal listings.

Airbnb claims that the group failed to register as a lobbyist and disclose its funding and expenses, even though it is legally required to do so, the New York Daily News reported. “Respondents are attempting to manipulate legislative outcomes in a way that benefits an undisclosed group of benefactors at the expense of residents of New York State. The public has a right to know who is funding these actions,” the complaint reads. David Grandeau, who used to head the state lobbying commission, prepared the complaint on behalf of Airbnb.

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State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, a ShareBetter member, countered that she is “confident that all of ShareBetter’s reporting requirements have been handled properly.”

“It’s not surprising that Airbnb, a company that put $10 million into the biggest Super PAC in the state to hide their aiding and abetting of the breaking of affordable housing laws, doesn’t understand the state’s campaign compliance laws,” she added.

Adding to the confusion, a member of the West Side Neighborhood Alliance, Tom Cayler, plans to file a complaint that three Airbnb lobbyists failed to register.

ShareBetter has spent heavily on lobbying and advertising since last year and reportedly played a key role in getting stricter short-term rental laws passed in New York. The group is backed by the hotel industry and hotel unions. [NYDN]Konrad Putzier