Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, have been adding more political muscle to their philanthropic organization, fueling rumors that the tech mogul could be eyeing a presidential bid in 2020.
Joel Benenson, a Democratic pollster who formerly worked as a top adviser to President Barack Obama and the chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, will help advise the organization, Politico reported, citing a person familiar with the hire.
His company, Benenson Strategy Group, will be doing research for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which mission is “advancing human potential and promoting equality.”
Get tech news in your inbox weekday mornings. Sign up for the free Good Morning Silicon Valley newsletter.
When asked about the hire, a CZI spokesperson told SiliconBeat in a statement:
“As a philanthropic organization focused on a number of substantive issues including science, education, housing and criminal justice reform, any research efforts we undertake is to support that work.”
Zuckerberg has repeatedly denied he plans to run for president, but that isn’t stopping the rumors from swirling.
He’s also been touring the United States as part of his personal goal to visit all 50 states this year. At the time, he said he needed to travel to about 30 states to complete this year’s challenge.
In January, the couple hired David Plouffe, who worked as the campaign manager for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, to lead the organization’s policy and advocacy efforts.
Ken Mehlman, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee who also managed George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, is volunteering his time to lead the initiative’s policy advisory board.
Bringing on people with prior political and government experience didn’t surprise some philanthropy experts at the time, who noted that there is an overlap between what government agencies and philanthropic groups are trying to achieve.
Along with investments in education, CZI is trying to cure, prevent and manage all diseases over the next decade.
And Zuckerberg has said before that advocacy will be part of the organization’s approach as it tries to build movements around fighting for a better educational system and more funding for science.
The couple announced in December 2015 that they were giving away 99 percent of their Facebook shares over their lifetime for philanthropic efforts and formed a limited liability company to do so. At the time, the gift was valued at an estimated $45 billion.
SiliconBeat also reached out to Benenson Strategy Group and this story will be updated if the organization responds.
Photo: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2015. (LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
Tags: facebook, mark zuckerberg, Politics