There's increasing speculation that Mark Zuckerberg, the self-made billionaire chairman, co-founder and chief executive officer of Facebook, may one day run for office. And though it's unclear that he will make a bid for to be the next U.S. President in 2020, he could certainly afford it.
According to Politico, some of the signs that he does plan to run are there.
Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have hired Joel Benenson, a Democratic pollster, adviser to former President Barack Obama and chief strategist of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, as a consultant for their joint philanthropic project, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
The pair also hired David Plouffe, campaign manager for Obama's 2008 presidential run; Amy Dudley, former communications adviser for Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.; and Ken Mehlman, who directed President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.
Zuckerberg is on a yearlong "listening tour," where he is traveling to all 50 states and meeting with leaders and constituents in each — and, to document the trip, he has hired Charles Ommanney, a photographer for both the Bush and Obama presidential campaigns.
Zuckerberg denies that he has presidential aspirations. He wrote in a May 21 Facebook post, "Some of you have asked if this challenge means I'm running for public office. I'm not." He said the same thing to BuzzFeed News in January.
But it sure looks like he might be. And he wouldn't be the first politician to try to mislead the public.
If he does run, it would cost only about one percent of his net worth to match the amount spent on Hillary Clinton's presidential bid of 2016, which some predicted at the time would be the most expensive ever.
Overall, the bill for last year's presidential and congressional elections came to a record $6.5 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The presidential race alone cost $2.4 billion. Of that, Clinton's campaign spent $768 million and Donald Trump's spent $398 million.
It's hard to know exactly how much a presidential campaign could cost Zuckerberg. That would depend on how much he would shell out himself and how much he could collect from super PAC contributions and donations from supporters, as well as the price of advertising, travel, housing and staffing. However, the 2016 race could provide a template.
Deadlines vary by state on when a presidential candidate must declare their candidacy, but there are 1,175 days until ballots are cast in 2020, and according to CNBC calculations, Zuckerberg, so far, has made $4.4 million for every day he's been alive.
He hasn't revealed any kind of political platform, but the CEO has spoken in favor of a universal basic income.
The idea, which during his listening tour, would guarantee citizens a set income regardless of age, class, job status and other criteria.
Supporters of the idea, like Elon Musk, say a basic income could be especially necessary as automation could replace lower-skilled jobs. Critics, however, say it does not address larger economic issues and, regardless, would be impossible to institute on a grand scale.
Zuckerberg also raised the idea during his May 25 Harvard commencement speech. "We should have a society that measures progress not just by economic metrics like [gross domestic product], but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful," Zuckerberg told graduates. "We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things."
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