Although some Democrats are looking to tear into Facebook as soon as they get into the office (we’re looking at you, Ms. Warren), others are taking CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s advice. Pete Buttigieg built his campaign staff to include two members who were personally recommended to him by Zuckerberg.
Both Zuckerberg and his wife (Priscilla Chan) sent emails to Mike Schmuhl, Buttigieg’s campaign manager, early this year with a few candidates’ names. As a result, Eric Mayefsky was hired as a senior digital analytics adviser while the organizing data manager role went to Nina Wornhoff.
Both campaign staff members have ties either as a Facebook employee or a member of the Chan Zuckerberg initiative. They have been providing their knowledge of social media to the campaign for months, allowing Buttigieg to get a leg up on his competition, at least as it pertains to his performance on Facebook.
It seems as though there’s a connection that few people knew about. Mark Zuckerberg and Pete Buttigieg were at Harvard at the same time. Although they were not friends during their time at college, Buttigieg was friends with some of Zuckerberg’s college roommates. Buttigieg was also one of the first 300 users of Facebook and was introduced to the CEO a few years later by a mutual friend.
Zuckerberg has told reporters that the hiring recommendations are not supporting the Buttigieg campaign although they may look like that. As of right now, the Facebook CEO has not come out to identify that he supports any of the presidential candidates.
Zuckerberg tries to keep his political learnings out of the press in general. When he has had to sit through testimonies on Capitol Hill, he has made sure to announce that they don’t ask the political affiliation of their employees. He’s acknowledged that Silicon Valley is left-leaning and he does what he can to take political bias out of the equation.
Facebook has managed to take in more ad money from Republicans than Democrats over the past year, and most of that is Trump’s large reelection campaign that is spending the money. Even still, Zuckerberg has said that he doesn’t identify as a Republican or a Democrat, which would make him an independent.
If he wants to support Buttigieg as a fellow Harvard grad, that’s his prerogative. Keeping his political stance out of the press, however, is likely a smart move on his part. Buttigieg, in the meantime, is likely happy to have those recommendations considering the two employees he hired have quite a powerful role within his campaign.
It is unclear as of right now whether Pete Buttigieg’s Facebook connections will have any kind of influence on his campaign. He has received a variety of donations from Facebook executives and has actively fun raised throughout Silicon Valley.
While he has called for regulation, including block mergers and potential fines for Facebook and other large companies, he is seen as being considerably friendlier towards these companies in comparison to Elizabeth Warren.
Buttigieg isn’t the first one to have social media employees on his campaign staff. Pres. Donald Trump had several Facebook employees on hand for assistance throughout his 2016 campaign. Many felt that this was a huge benefit because it made it possible to utilize the Facebook platform to the best of its abilities.
If anything, Pete Buttigieg hiring a few recommendations from Mark Zuckerberg will only help him throughout his political campaign for the 2020 presidency. Having people who are in the know about social media, and more specifically, Facebook is going to help him get the traffic that he needs.
Depending on the poll and the day, he is still pulling within the top five candidates – but it’s not quite as high as he needs to be in order to get the DNC nomination. He still falls behind Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden considerably.
If he’s going to get the leg up that he needs, he either needs a social media push that Zuckerberg’s recommendations can potentially provide or Biden needs to crumble – and it’s possible that either of those can happen.
There’s still a long way to go until the 2020 Democratic primaries happen, but Buttigieg is making sure that he is making all of the right moves. Considering Warren is getting louder and louder about what she might do to Zuckerberg, Facebook, and the rest of Silicon Valley if she gets into office, it may make sense for Buttigieg to get a little chummier with the CEO simply to show that he’s dramatically different from his opponent.