Facebook Inc. chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg has privately recommended several potential hires to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, a rare example of direct political involvement from one of tech’s most powerful executives.
Earlier this year, Zuckerberg sent multiple emails to Mike Schmuhl, Buttigieg’s campaign manager, with names of individuals that he might consider hiring, campaign spokesman Chris Meagher confirmed. Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg’s wife, also sent multiple emails to Schmuhl with staff recommendations. Ultimately, two of the people recommended were hired.
The emails between Zuckerberg and Buttigieg have come to light as Zuckerberg faces unrelenting attacks from politicians from both parties over such issues as misinformation, privacy, election meddling and bias. Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee on Facebook’s impact on the financial services and housing sectors.
Zuckerberg used to make political contributions more frequently, including to former and current House speakers Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi in 2014, but he hasn’t made any political donations or endorsements to specific candidates in the 2020 election cycle. In June, he gave $5,000 to Facebook’s PAC, which contributes to both Democratic and Republican candidates.
“Since the beginning of the campaign, we’ve built a top-tier operation with more than 430 staff in South Bend and around the country,” Meagher said. “The staffers come from all types of background, and everyone is working hard every day to elect Pete to the White House.”
A spokesman for the Zuckerberg-Chan family told Bloomberg News that the employees asked the tech mogul and Chan to recommend them.
“Having seen Mark’s visit to South Bend in 2017 and 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 said in a statement. Zuckerberg visited South Bend, Indiana, in April 2017 as part of his philanthropic work and got a tour from Buttigieg, that Zuckerberg live-streamed.
LaBolt didn’t answer a follow-up question asking whether Zuckerberg has made similar connections for other candidates.
Zuckerberg, asked about the emails on a call with reporters Monday, acknowledged that he and his wife passed along hiring recommendations but said that those actions should not be seen as an endorsement.
“I think this should probably not be misconstrued as if I’m like deeply involved in trying to support their campaign or something like that,” he said.
In the emails, Zuckerberg and Chan recommended potential campaign hires, and two of them are now on staff: Eric Mayefsky, senior digital analytics adviser, and Nina Wornhoff, organizing data manager.
Mayefsky previously worked as the director of data science at Quora, a 10-year-old question-and-answer startup founded by former Facebook employees. Mayefsky worked at Facebook for almost four years starting in 2010, according to his LinkedIn profile. Wornhoff previously worked as a machine learning engineer at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and in Democratic politics in Indiana, Buttigieg’s home state.
The communication was initiated by Zuckerberg and Chan, Meagher said. It was sent shortly after Buttigieg officially launched his campaign in mid-April.
“From the CNN Town hall in March to our launch a month later, we literally got 7,000 resumes,” Meagher said. “I think that he (Zuckerberg) thought Eric would be a good staff hire with a lot of experience and same with Nina and Priscilla.”