Zuckerberg with India’s PM Narendra Modi at Facebook in Menlo Park, California, US, in 2015. Making friends already? Source: AP

Road to the White House? Mark Zuckerberg hires top Clinton adviser

DESPITE repeatedly denying rumours of political ambitions, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has hired as a consultant Joel Benenson, the chief strategist to Hillary Clinton’s failed United States presidential campaign and former top advisor to Barack Obama.

Benenson’s hiring, as firstly reported by Politico on Wednesday, has sent netizens into a frenzy of speculation the third-richest man in tech wants to run for office.

Together with his wife Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg hired the Benenson Strategy Group to conduct research for the couple’s philanthropy, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Zuckerberg and Chan have devoted a 99 percent of his Facebook shares, an estimated US$45 billion to charity and Benenson’s hiring is yet another indication their philanthropic work was gearing towards the political and policy world, according to Politico.

With Benenson in the fold, the charity arm would have access to leading staffers of Clinton’s campaign and Obama’s longtime pollster, the site reported, as Zuckerberg’s so-called political ambitions continue to be debated.

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“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 spokesman for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was quoted as saying.

Zuckerberg has in the past said he was not interested in becoming US president, but in January, the couple hired David Plouffe as president of policy and advocacy. Plouffe was former campaign manager for Obama’s 2008 presidential run.

Earlier this year, the philanthropy also hired a senator’s former communications adviser Amy Dudley.

If the speculations are true, Zuckerberg would join a laundry list of high-profile people, including celebrities Dwayne Johnson, Kid Rock, and Ron Perlman, who despite having no political experience, have a desire to run for the White House.