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Facebook founder dips his toe into politics. What next for Zuck?


By Noel Young, Correspondent

March 30, 2013 | 3 min read

Whither Mark Zuckerberg? The Facebook founder and wealthiest 28-year-old on the planet is showing a keen interest in public policy and politics.

Zuck with Newark mayor Cory Booker and NJ Gov Chris Christie

He is leading moves by Silicon Valley figures to explore forming an "issues advocacy" group that will focus on immigration reform, education and other matters that can affect the U.S. economy and, more specifically, the tech industry, reports his home area paper, the San Jose Mercury News.

"If Zuckerberg decides he wants to apply the levers of politics, to make policy change happen, his impact could be extraordinary," political analyst Dan Schnur told the paper.

Zuckerberg already has stepped outside the tech world, donating $100 million to help fix New Jersey schools and $500 million to the nonprofit Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Earlier this year, he hosted a fundraiser at his home for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential Republican presidential candidate. Zuckerberg has also met President Barack Obama twice .

The Mercury News said names linked with the Silicon Valley advocacy group included Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, and Joe Green, a former Zuckerberg college roommate and entrepreneur now with the Andreessen Horowitz venture firm.

A person familiar with their discussions confirmed to the paper that they had sought advice from a bipartisan team of political strategists including Joe Lockhart, a former Clinton White House press secretary who worked for a year at Facebook, and national Republican consultants Jon Lerner and Rob Jesmer.

"With an initial budget reported at $50 million, the group could wield significant clout," said the report with Immigration at the top of the list of issues.

The group plans to register as one reserved for social welfare groups not organised for profit, said the Wall Street Journal, citing a person familiar with the discussions.

The WSJ underlined the immigration focus, saying Zuckerberg had told confidantes the new group will initially be focused on comprehensive immigration reform and making the pathway to U.S. citizenship less complicated for all immigrants, quoting people familiar with his thinking. Also in the frame: education reform and funding for scientific research.

Carly Fiorina snd Meg Whitman were two leading tech executives who tried and failed in runs for public office. So far Zuck has shown no inclination to take that road.

But he is probably one of the most prominent figures under 30 who is now stepping in to the policy arena. Veteran political strategist Bill Whalen told the Mercury News , "I'll be interested in how he uses his platform."

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