POLITICS

Mark Zuckerberg Says He Gave Pete Buttigieg's Campaign Unsolicited Hiring Advice

The Facebook CEO and his wife, Priscilla Chan, privately endorsed potential campaign staffers for tech roles, emails show.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, privately recommended a handful of potential staffers to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, two of whom were then hired.

Correspondence first reported by Bloomberg on Monday shows that Chan and Zuckerberg each sent several emails to Buttigieg’s campaign manager earlier this year on behalf of Facebook employees who’d asked for a recommendation. The two people hired by the Buttigieg campaign now work in technology-related roles. One is a senior digital analytics adviser, while the other is an organizing data manager.

Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is one of several people seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president.

The Buttigieg campaign didn’t respond to HuffPost’s request for comment, but spokesman Chris Meagher confirmed the reporting to CNBC. He said the recommendations were made “around the launch when we were getting a ton of incoming resumes.”

On Twitter, Lis Smith, Buttigieg’s senior communications adviser, emphasized that the recommendations were made on behalf of potential hires asking for an introduction to the Buttigieg campaign ― not the other way around.

“[This is] a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing,” Smith wrote Monday. “We get [recommendations] from hundreds of people and we’ve received thousands and thousands of resumes.”

Zuckerberg addressed the matter in a Monday morning press conference, where he said his emails aren’t an endorsement of the candidate. He portrayed his emails to the campaign as not much more than sending over the resumes of colleagues who’d asked him to put them in touch.

“I did a Facebook live event with [Buttigieg] a couple years back, so it’s widely known that I’ve met him,” Zuckerberg said.

In almost any other context, this would be a non-story. Bosses provide letters of recommendation all the time.

But given Facebook’s extreme political influence, and the numerous fronts on which the tech giant is defending itself ― claims of bias, proposed regulations supported by Buttigieg’s competitors, profiting off foreign election meddling, the company’s own high-level right-wing ties, and a written policy of allowing politicians to lie, to name a few ― any wisp of preferential treatment for the site (or from it) is a bad look for an ascendant presidential candidate.

Not helping appearances: Zuckerberg is an acquaintance of Buttigieg, who often notes he was Facebook’s 287th user. (At that point in its existence, Facebook was a very different website, a fact that Zuckerberg keeps lying about in an apparent attempt to rewrite history.)

Zuckerberg also visited Buttigieg in South Bend in 2017.

While some presidential contenders, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have publicly disavowed high-dollar fundraisers, Buttigieg has accepted plenty of Silicon Valley cash. He defended his fundraising sources last week, telling Snapchat’s Peter Hamby, “We’re not going to beat [President Donald Trump] with pocket change.”

That’s not to say Buttigieg hasn’t been critical of the social media platform, which he’s warned has too much power and has “a David mentality when they’ve increasingly turned into Goliath.” But unlike Warren, Buttigieg has stopped short of full-throated calls for tech monopolies like Facebook to be broken up.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), like Warren, is a proponent of regulating Facebook, having sounded the alarm on “unchecked corporate power” earlier this year.

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