After hiring election experts, Zuckerberg group commits $45M to political causes

Christina Gregg, AOL.com

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has frequently been talked about as a private sector leader that could someday run for office, but the political focus of his new group suggests he may not need to campaign in order to make a significant impact.

According to a new VICE News exclusive, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) has publicly committed $45 million to two political causes: mass incarceration and affordable housing in American cities.

Zuckerberg stirred media speculation in both January and August when he hired former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe and former Clinton pollster Joel Benenson -- but Plouffe says they've been brought on to tackle strategy in focusing on political work as a way to achieve CZI's philanthropic goals.

"What you’ll generally see is you’ll see activities flair up around a moment," Plouffe told VICE. "But if you’re out there in a sustained way, organizing and making arguments and telling compelling stories, you will often strengthen yourself for that next moment."

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The announcement on CZI's massive commitment comes as Zuckerberg has continued to speak out against President Trump's attacks on Facebook and policy shifts. He notably responded to Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in a Facebook post, calling it a "cruel" and "a sad day for our country."

As for Zuckerberg and his wife's policy focuses, a visit to San Quentin State Prison and their experience witnessing first-hand the housing problems in San Francisco's Bay Area have reportedly shaped their desire to target these issues. Already, CZI has put money behind ballot initiatives in the Bay Area and lobbied for California's biggest housing package in a decade, which was comprised of 15 separate bills.

In the heat of "President Zuckerberg" talk, Democratic firm Public Policy Polling conducted a 2020 poll back in July showing the world's fifth-richest man in a dead heat with Trump at 40 percent each. Other non-politicians that continue to be talked about as potential candidates are Mark Cuban and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.