Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly hired Joel Benenson, one of former President Barack Obama’s top advisers and chief strategist to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign as a consultant. Citing a person familiar with the hiring, Politico reported on Wednesday (2 August) that the Democratic pollster’s Benenson Strategy Group will conduct research for Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan’s philanthropy, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).
Founded in December 2015 shortly after the birth of their daughter Max, the couple’s initiative aims to “advance human potential and promote equal opportunity.”
“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 CZI spokesperson said in a statement.
The news comes amid growing speculation that the tech mogul could run for public office and possibly announce a bid for the White House.
In January, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative hired David Plouffe, the manager of Obama’s successful 2008 presidential campaign and former chief adviser at Uber, as president of policy and advocacy. It also hired Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee and former manager for former president George W Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign to head CZI’s new policy advisory board.
They also hired Amy Dudley, former communications adviser to Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine earlier this year.
Over the past few months, Zuckerberg has been touring states across the US as part of his “personal challenge” for 2017 to meet and talk to people in every state by the end of the year, fueling rumours that he may run for president’s office.
As part of his year-long tour, Trump visited Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and other swing states. He has also continued to weigh in on key political issues including healthcare, immigration and climate change among other social issues.
Amid Zuckerberg’s ongoing tour of the US, a recent poll by Democratic firm PublicPolicyPolling revealed that he would tie with President Donald Trump in a theoretical 2020 election race with both at 40%. The pollsters noted that Zuckerberg “not a particularly well-known figure nationally”.
For his part, Zuckerberg shot down rumours in May saying he is not considering running for office.
“Some of you have asked if this challenge means I’m running for public office. I’m not,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “I’m doing it to get a broader perspective to make sure we’re best serving our community of almost 2 billion people on Facebook and doing the best work to promote equal opportunity at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.”