Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg‘s latest hire is further fueling speculation that he could be planning a 2020 presidential bid.
Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan have hired Democratic pollster Joel Benenson, a former top adviser and longtime pollster to President Barack Obama and the chief strategist of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, as a consultant, Politico reported, citing a person familiar with the hire.
Benenson’s company, Benenson Strategy Group, will conduct research for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropy run by the couple and endowed with their estimated $45 billion Facebook fortune — 99 percent of which they’ve vowed to give away.
The Benenson Strategy Group also does work for non-profit groups including AARP, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.
The hire, Politico says, is the latest sign that the couple are “pushing their philanthropic work more heavily into the political and policy world.”
In January , Zuckerberg, 33, and Chan, 32, hired David Plouffe, campaign manager for Obama’s 2008 presidential run, as president of policy and advocacy. They also brought on Amy Dudley, a former communications adviser to Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine. Ken Mehlman, who ran President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, is also on the charity’s board.
And Zuckerberg’s personal photographer, Charles Ommanney, was the photographer for Bush and Obama’s presidential campaigns, Business Insider reported.
A spokeswoman for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative told Politico of the hire: “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.”
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Speculation over Zuckerberg’s political ambitions have been growing in recent months, with his name being floated as a potential 2020 candidate.
Lmao, he’s definitely running and it’s good be funny when his campaign goes nowhere because he’s so uncharismatic https://t.co/H4hm2TyF8O
— Affable Midwesterner (@M_Toney) August 2, 2017
Zuckerberg now has Benenson, Plouffe, & Dudley in his corner…and he’s still acting like he won’t run for office in 2020. Sure dude, sure.
— Pacific Truth (@PacificTruth) August 3, 2017
— WordWiley (@WordWiley) July 22, 2017
In January, he announced a year-long project to visit every U.S. state. So far he has road tripped through Iowa, the first state to caucus in the primaries, and also visited Dayton, Ohio, and a Ford assembly plant outside Detroit, both viewed as key campaign stops.
While in Ohio, Zuckerberg also dropped in on a family of Trump supporters after asking his staff to find Democrats who voted for the president in 2016.
After launching his nationwide tour, Zuckerberg denied he had any plans to run for office. “Some of you have asked if this challenge means I’m running for public office,” he wrote on his Facebook page in May. “I’m not.”