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The man behind Obama’s “hope and change” emails is writing similar ones for Uber

Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
#ThrowbackThursday with David Plouffe and Uber.
By Hanna Kozlowska
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Anyone who supported Barack Obama’s run for president in 2008 remembers the name of David Plouffe, the campaign’s manager, whose daily emails flooded supporters’ inboxes and are part of what prompted Obama to call him “the unsung hero of this campaign” in his acceptance speech.

So for many in the US who use the taxi service app Uber, today felt like a throwback to the days of “Yes We Can.”

Now the company’s senior vice president for policy and strategy, “David Plouffe for Uber” sent an email this morning to tell the service’s customers that for every ride taken during the Super Bowl on Sunday, Uber will donate $1 to the non-profit Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Even the subject line of the email was similar in tone to the ubiquitous “Hope” and “Change” emails of 2008, with its vague collection of keywords: “Choice is a Powerful Thing.”

Quartz reached out to Uber for comment, and will update this post if we hear back.

Plouffe helped elect Barack Obama in 2008 as his campaign manager, focusing on grassroots and online efforts. He also served as a senior White House adviser, bolstering the 2012 re-election push. He began working with Obama during his 2004 senatorial campaign.

He arrived at Uber as senior vice president in charge of policy and strategy in August, at a time when the company needed his political acumen—both to deal with the controversies it was embroiled in, such as Uber’s campaign to recruit drivers from competitor Lyft, and to handle the company’s dealings with city and federal authorities.

“Over the years, what I’ve come to realize is that this controversy exists because we are in the middle of a political campaign and it turns out the candidate is Uber,” CEO Travis Kalanick said at the time. “Our opponent—the Big Taxi cartel—has used decades of political contributions and influence to restrict competition, reduce choice for consumers, and put a stranglehold on economic opportunity for its drivers.”

Uber’s image has suffered over the years, with problems ranging from its price-surging policies, to accusations of sexual assault by drivers, to executives suggesting digging up personal dirt on reporters who are critical of the company.

But now, Emily Greenhouse at Bloomberg notes, “there are signs of incipient Plouffe-ism, green shoots of a savvier political sense”—for example, the company’s efforts to redeem its image by delivering flu shots, groceries and even puppies to office workers.

Even though Plouffe had been at Uber for several months, customers were surprised to receive his email:

Some were put off by the marriage of the former political advisor with the controversial company:

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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