Silicon Valley’s Biden Beef and Zuckerberg’s Hired Gun

Mark Zuckerberg
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Theodore Schleifer
December 20, 2021

Mark Zuckerberg’s political interests are, understandably, the subject of intense scrutiny. Liberals have long suspected that he is a hostage of the right, if not a Republican sympathizer, given the extensive aid that Facebook provided Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 and Zuckerberg’s subsequent reluctance to boot him from the platform. Conservatives presume he is a hostage of his woke employees, if not a card-carrying progressive himself, given that he did eventually deplatform Trump. 

That’s why I was intrigued to hear from a source that Zuckerberg recently hired Brian Baker, a longtime Republican strategist, for a new political project. Baker, as Washington insiders will know, is the well-respected political right hand to the billionaire Ricketts family—which includes Todd Ricketts, the co-owner of the Chicago Cubs and until recently the G.O.P. finance chair, and Pete Ricketts, the Republican governor of Nebraska—as well as a key player in the high-dollar G.O.P. fundraising world more broadly. Baker has run outside groups and super PACs that devised vicious attacks on Barack Obama and was one of the few big-money players to support Trump in 2016. Zuckerberg and the Ricketts family are probably as far apart as any two donors could be.

Hiring Baker doesn’t make Zuckerberg a Republican. What it does make Zuckerberg, however, is smart. The Facebook founder is a fairly conventional Silicon Valley liberal—pro-success, pro-innovation, anti-partisanship—even if his primary political concern is Facebook itself. He takes advice from David Plouffe, the former Obama campaign manager who used to guide the political work of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and his personal political check-writing tends to fund broad, middle-of-the-road issues like criminal justice and immigration reform. Pretty anodyne stuff.