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Screengrab via Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook

Zuckerberg hires top political adviser, sparks more rumors of a presidential run

Joel Benenson, former Obama adviser, will conduct research for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.


Phillip Tracy


Posted on Aug 3, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 9:48 pm CDT

Mark Zuckerberg reportedly hired the chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign, and he still wants you to believe he isn’t running for office.

A personal challenge to meet ordinary people in every U.S. state sparked speculation that the Facebook CEO was in the early stages of a presidential campaign. The rumors mounted, forcing Zuck to write a post where he explicitly denied any intention of pursuing a career in politics, “Some of you have asked if this challenge means I’m running for public office. I’m not.”

But news from Politico—that Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, reportedly hired Democratic pollster Joel Benenson, a former adviser to Barack Obama—has ignited a new wave of rumors.

It’s no wonder people think Zuckerberg will make a run at Trump in the 2020 presidential election. The business magnate posts pictures of his travels around rural America, where he tries to fit in with locals in what look like scenes from Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs. He recently posted about his travel to the all-important swing state Iowa, where he ate with truck drivers at a local diner.

If that doesn’t scream Americana, I don’t know what does. Zuck also visited a Ford assembly plant in Detroit and took a trip to Ohio, all while taking pictures that look fit for a candidate’s website (probably because Zuck’s photographer was once assigned to the White House).

It isn’t just the listening tour that has people readying the “Zuck for Prez” buttons. Zuckerberg announced last year that he is no longer atheist, and passed a proposal letting him keep voting control of his company if he were to serve in public office. He also hired David Plouffe, President Obama’s former campaign chair, to help his charity, and will turn 35—the minimum required age to run for president—in 2019.

But there are other, less presidential explanations for Zuck’s latest hire.

According to Politico, Benenson’s company, Benenson Strategy Group, will conduct research for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the couple’s philanthropic investment company.

“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,” a spokeswoman for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative told Politico.

Zuck and Chan give away 99 percent of their Facebook shares, approximately $45 billion, to the charity. The Benenson Strategy Group already works with many other non-profit groups, including AARP, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.

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*First Published: Aug 3, 2017, 10:17 am CDT