A new political action committee in Hawaii aligned with Airbnb is already contributing to local politicians.

The Committee to Expand the Middle Class gave $6,500 to leaders in the Hawaii State Legislature including Speaker Joe Souki, Finance Chair Sylvia Luke, Senate President Ron Kouchi and Senate Majority Leader Kalani English.

Most of the contributions came in June, when Gov. David Ige announced that he intended to veto a bill to collect revenue from vacation-rental companies like Airbnb.

This Airbnb listing in Lahaina is one of hundreds for short-term rentals in Hawaii on the rapidly growing website.
This Airbnb listing in Lahaina is one of hundreds for short-term rentals in Hawaii on the rapidly growing website. Airbnb

The bill ultimately was vetoed — Ige said it would have “unintended consequences” — but new legislation could surface next session.

Asked if the Airbnb PAC intended to play a greater role locally, Cyn Wang, Airbnb’s public policy manager, said in an email: “The Committee to Expand the Middle Class is one part of our efforts to help strengthen communities that Airbnb hosts and guests call home. We’re proud to support principled community leaders and proposals that will make communities stronger.

Wang added, “We have not yet decided whether to pursue state legislation in Hawaii for the upcoming year given Governor Ige’s decision to forgo millions of dollars in revenue by vetoing a bill, supported by his own tax department, that would have allowed us to collect and remit taxes on behalf of users.”

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Council Chair Ernie Martin and former Zoning Committee Chair Ikaika Anderson also received donations from the PAC.

The Hawaii contributions are a drop in the bucket compared with the $319,147 the PAC spent in California since the first of the year. A lot of it went to politicians.

A San Franciso-based tech-news publication wrote in April that the Committee to Expand the Middle Class put “money behind a variety of ballot initiatives and politicians for the June 2016 ballot.”

“What could have prompted the recent flurry of donor activity, all of which happened in the last week?” reported Recode. “Two city supervisors recently proposed new legislation that would more tightly regulate vacation rentals (like Airbnb) in the city.”

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