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Hillary Clinton has 'no beef' with Uber, says top policy aide

At a Monitor breakfast Tuesday, senior Clinton policy adviser Jake Sullivan pushed back on Republican criticism of Clinton's views on the 'sharing economy.'

Bryan Dozier
Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri (l.) and senior Clinton policy adviser Jake Sullivan speak to reporters at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

A top aide to Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton pushed back Tuesday on Republican claims that she wants to rein in the “sharing economy,” such as Uber and Airbnb.

In a major economic speech Monday, Mrs. Clinton lauded what she called the “on-demand” or “gig economy” as exciting and innovative, but also raised questions about protections for workers and about “what a good job will look like” in the future.  

"There is no beef in that comment whatsoever," senior Clinton policy adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Monitor. "There’s substance in it, but there’s no beef in the combative sense."

What Clinton is trying to do is "start a very serious conversation about this important and growing part of our economy that is adding innovation and opportunity and excitement, frankly, but is also raising challenges and questions,” Mr. Sullivan said. “And she wants that to be a conversation that she has in Silicon Valley, in Washington, and everywhere in between."

After Clinton’s speech, Republican candidates pushed back vigorously on her comments on the sharing economy, in an effort to paint her as anti-business and anti-progress – and out of touch with American life. Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky issued a series of tweets.

“America shouldn't take advice on the sharing economy from someone who has been driven around in a limo for 30 years,” Senator Paul said in another tweet.

The campaign of former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) of Florida also weighed in: “Secretary Clinton’s antiquated proposals protect the special interests that want to stifle American ingenuity and 21st century companies like Uber that are creating jobs.”

Mr. Bush also said Tuesday that he plans to request an Uber ride later this week while in San Francisco, where he will speak on disruptive technology.

Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri, also appearing at the Monitor breakfast, said Clinton’s speech Monday was “what she thinks the entire campaign and discussion should be around.”

On all the Republicans running for president, Ms. Palmieri said, “I don’t believe any of them have put forward a plan that’s markedly different from the trickle-down theories that we have seen from previous Republican presidents.”

In the speech, Clinton identified stagnant wages as the “defining economic challenge of our time.” And she urged greater attention to long-term investment, promising a future proposal aimed at getting CEOs and shareholders “to focus on the next decade rather than just the next day.”

On the issue of corporate accountability, Clinton – a former senator from New York with ties to Wall Street – suggested that her administration would be more aggressive than the Obama administration about prosecuting individuals who have committed white-collar crimes.

“Look, neither she nor I are trying to making this a report card on the current Justice Department or SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission], but rather to say that the issue of individual accountability is one that does require significant attention,” said Sullivan, noting that many banks have pleaded guilty in the last year.

“At the end of the day,” he continued, ”when you’re trying to deter behavior or ensure that people are acting in a lawful and responsible way, it has to be about more than just big corporate fines or corporate pleas. It has to involve individuals.”

At the start of the breakfast, Sullivan was asked his reaction to the Iran nuclear deal announced by President Obama Tuesday morning. Clinton, the former secretary of State, had played a central role in launching the negotiations, and Sullivan, too, was involved as a State Department aide.

“I believe that this deal is the best and most effective way to prevent Iran” from getting nuclear weapons, Sullivan said, speaking on his own behalf and not for the campaign.

Later, Sullivan and Palmieri were asked about the possibility that Vice President Joe Biden might get into the Democratic nomination race. The question is particularly awkward for Sullivan, who was national security adviser to Vice President Biden.

“I think I can speak for both Jake and I that we love Vice President Biden – amen – in a very sincere way, and have so much respect for him,” said Palmieri. “And I know he’s making this decision, and we’ll let him go through that process.”

Sullivan also offered an “amen” to Biden, whose elder son, Beau, died on May 30. 

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