uber_liability

When judges are asked to preside over a case involving family, or any similar conflict of interest, they are expected to recuse themselves. For California state Senators, apparently the same standard doesn’t apply.

Last Thursday, San Diego Democrat Ben Hueso voted in favor of a bill that would make it far more difficult for ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to operate within the state. The problem? As first reported by the Sacramento Bee, Hueso’s brothers own a cab company: San Diego-based USA Cab. The brothers and USA Cab have collectively contributed nearly $9,000 to his political career, campaign finance records show.

Hueso tells the Bee:

“I worked in the cab industry for 15 years, so I’m an expert. Much like an attorney would carry a bill on law, or a doctor would carry a bill on health care, I thought I would be the perfect.”

While Hueso is right that lawmakers often rely on prior experience to guide their legislative activities, the direct competition between his brothers’ company and these ride-sharing upstarts, and the immediate benefit his brothers stand to gain from the passage of this law make this situation more unsavory than most. Hueso’s is one of two competing bills in the California Senate. His, CA-AB1234, would increasing insurance requirements for ride-sharing companies. A second, unrelated bill would increase background check requirements, preclude drivers with histories of credit card fraud, and require the companies to participate in a additional DMV programs.

The passage of either of these bills would be a major blow for Uber and Lyft, and a major coup for the badly wounded taxi industry.

But conflict of interest wasn’t Hueso’s only blunder in the last week. Adding insult to injury, the very next day after the above vote, the state Senator was caught drunk driving. California Highway Patrol Officer Julie Powell tells the Bee that Hueso was seen going in the wrong direction down a one way street. The Senator was booked into jail at 3:27 a.m, and jail records show his blood alcohol content exceeded the legal limit of 0.08 at that time, although the CHP declined to release the precise figure.

The news was much to the delight of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick:

If only Hueso knew of an alternative to driving drunk, perhaps one that could be called at the push of a button from his smartphone. The Senator has apologized publicly for the drunk driving. No word on whether he’s ashamed of being a hypocrite and a nepotist.