Mark Zuckerberg has bigger plans than the White House

Mark Zuckerberg has bigger plans than the White House, by Alex Thompson.

Mark Zuckerberg’s listening tour of the United States, he insists, is not a political campaign. But while “Zuck 2020” may not be happening, the 33-year-old Facebook co-founder is planning to influence American politics for generations to come. And that campaign has already begun.

The world’s fifth-richest man has publicly committed $45 million — most of it in the first 10 months of 2017 — into groups aligned with two political causes: ending the era of mass incarceration and fixing the affordable housing crisis in American cities. The sum, reported here for the first time, represents the first series of investments by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (with wife Priscilla Chan), or CZI, which is setting goals to extend far beyond the next election cycle.

With a $60 billion-plus funding commitment, CZI would be the biggest foundation in the world, almost 30 percent larger than the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at $43 billion. … But CZI isn’t a foundation; rather, it is structured as a limited liability company, meaning it has more flexibility in political advocacy and far fewer legal obligations to disclose how it does so. …

While Zuckerberg’s philanthropic arm has so far disclosed the amount they have given to each organization they’ve publicly embraced, they have the ability to conduct business — and affect the country’s politics — largely in secret if they choose. It’s possible the LLC is already funding political advocacy groups and the public would have no way of knowing, akin to the “dark money” activities of the Koch brothers.

Just as Facebook’s algorithm distributes information and ad dollars in unseen ways, CZI will be able to tip the scales of politics with stacks of cash.