Stripling philanthropist/magnanimous billionaire overlord Mark Zuckerberg was very excited to meet with wizened elder John Podesta late last summer, according to an email Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg sent to Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The email, posted by Wikileaks as part of the organization’s ongoing dump of Podesta’s emails, is dated August 3, 2015 and titled “in case you have time.” In her sole personal appearance in Podesta’s emails so far, Sandberg briskly wished Podesta well before getting to the point, which is that Zuckerberg wanted to talk. No, not talk, he wanted to learn.
“Mark is meeting with people to learn more about next steps for his philanthropy and social action and it’s hard to imagine someone better placed or more experienced than you to help him,” Sandberg writes. “As you may know, he’s young and hungry to learn — always in learning mode — and is early in his career when it comes to his philanthropic efforts.”
Zuckerberg wanting to meet with Podesta isn’t surprising. The former is the head of a multi-billion dollar company that spends millions on lobbying, and who also met with Republican leaders earlier this year over the controversy of bias in Facebook’s trending section; The latter is a well-situated Democratic political operative, who was the founding president and CEO of the Center for American Progress.
What is interesting is to see Sandberg’s characterization of Zuckerberg: young, “always in learning mode,” “early in his career.” Zuckerberg has an estimated net worth of $55 billion at age 32 and is early in his philanthropic career if you ignore the $100 million he threw at Newark’s public schools six years ago to little effect or his 2.5 billion dollar gift to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. She portrays him as the doe-eyed leader of a recently enriched philanthropic organization, not the head of a social media company who recently consolidated his power and strategically structured his philanthropic group as an LLC.
He’s begun to think about whether/how he might want to shape advocacy efforts to support his philanthropic priorities and is particularly interested in meeting people who could help him understand how to move the needle on the specific public policy issues he cares most about. He wants to meet folks who can inform his understanding about effective political operations to advance public policy goals on social oriented objectives (like immigration, education or basic scientific research).
In addition to philanthropic objectives Zuckerberg may have, Facebook has a number of political goals including patent reform, immigration policy changes, and tax credits for research. These are things that Podesta, an old hand in Washington and with the Clintons more specifically, might know something about. And Zuckerberg being friendly with Podesta also couldn’t hurt Facebook in the likely event Hillary Clinton is sworn in on January 20.
I’ve reached out to Facebook for comment, and will update this post if the company gets back to me.