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Pete Buttigieg Is Taking Campaign Advice from Mark Zuckerberg

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The campaign hired at least two people who were recommended by Zuckerberg and his wife.

 

Reports suggest that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has made at least a couple of hiring recommendations for the Pete Buttigieg campaign.

According to a report from Bloomberg, Zuckerberg emailed Buttigieg's campaign manager, Mike Schmuhl, to suggest staffers to hire. Physician Priscilla Chen, who is married to Zuckerberg, is also reported to have sent recommendations. The emails have not been publicly released.

Two of the staffers recommended by the couple now work on the campaign: Eric Mayefsky, senior digital analytics adviser, and Nina Wornhoff, organizing data manager.

Mayefsky's background includes serving as director of data science at Quora, a Yahoo Answers clone founded by former Facebook employees. Wornhoff worked at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a private company that funds international technology startups. The company also contributed to a ballot measure to change California's tax policies.

Once a frequent donor to political campaigns, Zuckerberg in recent years has stepped away from supplying cash directly to candidates. None of the individuals currently running for president in this election cycle has received any money from Zuckerberg, but the Bloomberg report suggests he's still involved to some extent behind the scenes of Buttigieg's campaign -- if not others.

According to a spokesperson for the Zuckerberg and Chen family, the staffers asked to be recommended to the campaign.

"Having seen Mark's visit to South Bend in 2017 and [the] Facebook Live with Mayor Buttigieg, colleagues later asked Mark and Priscilla to connect them with the Buttigieg campaign as they were interested in joining," spokesman Ben LaBolt told Bloomberg. "Mark and Priscilla have not decided who to support for President."

Zuckerberg is currently embroiled in an ongoing controversy over Facebook's policy of allowing politicians to spread false information, which he has defended.

A new Facebook advertisement from Elizabeth Warren illustrated the dangers of those guidelines by claiming that Zuckerberg -- who claims he is not affiliated with a political party -- endorsed Donald Trump for president. While that's not true, Warren created the ad to highlight the fact that his company allows politicians to spread lies and propaganda.

According to a recently published report by the investigative news website Sludge, Facebook made more than $1.6 million from May 2018 to September 2019 by promoting sponsored ads disparaging LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, Muslims, and other marginalized groups.

But despite the criticism surrounding Facebook, it's not entirely surprising Buttigieg and Zuckerberg may be teaming up: They attended Harvard around the same time and had mutual friends, though they say they didn't meet until years later. Buttigieg was among the first 300 users of Facebook at Harvard, where the site was initially conceived as a "Hot or Not" clone that compared students to farm animals.

At the time, Zuckerberg wrote that people were signing up for the service because they trusted him. "Dumb fucks," he reportedly said in 2003.

Buttigieg has continued to establish close ties with Silicon Valley in his post-collegiate life, expressing reluctance to break up the tech companies like Facebook that have allowed Zuckerberg to horde a net worth of around $68 billion.

Meanwhile, the South Bend, Ind. mayor has faced his own controversies in recent days. Last week, Buttigieg came under fire for accepting funds from an attorney who assisted in the coverup of the Laquan McDonald shooting in Chicago and later returned the money. He also blasted liberal "purity tests" after Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez referred to his campaign as a symbol of "big money politics."

Even amid increased scrutiny, new polling from Iowa indicates Buttigieg has climbed to third place in the upcoming Democratic primary caucuses, just points behind Warren and Joe Biden.

RELATED | Facebook Made a Ton of Money Promoting Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate

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Matt Baume