Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, plan to give away virtually all of their wealth. Now they’re taking steps to ensure that the issues they invest in — curing diseases and pushing for more personalized learning, among others — won’t hit political roadblocks along the way.
David Plouffe, the former campaign adviser to Barack Obama and, most recently, a policy adviser at Uber, is joining the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as president of policy and advocacy. He will remain on Uber’s board of directors.
Plouffe will build out a policy team at CZI and work with another former campaign manager, Ken Mehlman, who ran George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign. Mehlman has been brought in to chair the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s new policy advisory board.
It’s all part of a broader effort to influence policy in areas that Zuckerberg and Chan care about.
“Advocacy has always been part of our approach,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday. “Part of creating sustainable social change is also helping to build movements around these issues — to fight for more science funding and better education for all children.”
Zuckerberg and Chan first announced their plan to give away all of their wealth — nearly $52 billion right now, according to Forbes — at the very end of 2015. It’s a plan that has required a number of strategic steps, including making key hires like Plouffe and CTO Brian Pinkerton to help lead their newly created investment company.
But it has also required some legal steps, including restructuring Facebook’s stock classes so that Zuckerberg could give away money without losing control of the company he founded. He’s already sold hundred of millions of dollars worth of Facebook stock.
Zuckerberg and Chan’s first major effort will be to cure all diseases in their daughter’s lifetime. She just turned 1.
At Uber, Plouffe was replaced as the head of policy and communications less than a year after joining the company by Google’s former comms boss Rachel Whetstone. But in that time, Uber won many of its hard-fought local legal battles in the U.S. and became legalized in the Philippines — the first country to pass nationwide ride-share regulations.
Since being replaced by Whetstone, however, Plouffe’s role no longer included day-to-day policy issues. Instead, he traveled to meet with regulators to advocate on behalf of the company. Some sources say the importance of his responsibilities at Uber was marginalized in that time, while others maintain he acted as the company’s representative in important regulatory forums.
“Uber is not a nonprofit or NGO,” Plouffe wrote in a letter to employees that Recode obtained. “We are a business first. But, we can all be proud that this platform is having a profound impact on tens of millions people around the world—and you’re just getting started.”
An Uber spokesperson passed along the following statement from CEO Travis Kalanick.
"Three years ago, I was looking for someone to help guide Uber's strategy as we launched in more cities around the globe. David impressed me with his storytelling skills, his ability to connect with people on a human level, and his incredible passion for Uber and our mission. I'm excited that he'll bring that passion to the world-changing efforts underway at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and that he will remain a key part of our family as an Uber board member, an advocate for our company and an advisor to me."
And here are Facebook posts from Zuckerberg and Plouffe shared on the network Tuesday.
Here’s the full text of the letter David Plouffe sent employees today:
It’s been an incredible privilege to watch you build something that didn’t exist seven years ago, but today is fundamentally improving cities for the people who live in them in remarkable ways. Meeting so many of you at Uberversity, and across the world in our city HQs, I was reminded daily that your extraordinary talent, passion and fearlessness is the heart of Uber.
I am now going to be taking on a new challenge: helping Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan build their philanthropic organization, the
Making a difference is something that is familiar to all of you. Whether it was seeing the tears in the eyes of our partners in Bangalore as they picked up the keys to the first car they have ever owned; watching hundreds of drivers on the edge of their seat at a Cairo onboarding, for the first time in a long time having economic hope; listening to women in Saudi Arabia speak so powerfully about what mobility has meant to their life; seeing how communities like the South Side of Chicago and Anacostia in Washington, D.C. have been transformed, with citizens having equal access to transportation for the first time in their lives; and with UberPOOL, the ability to save money and time, which are both in short supply for too many.
My travels brought me up close to the human stories that are the core of what we do and why we do it. Whatever help I was able to provide on the ground was dwarfed by the motivation and inspiration I drew from the city teams and getting a bird's eye view of the impact your work is having.
Uber is not a nonprofit or NGO. We are a business first. But, we can all be proud that this platform is having a profound impact on tens of millions people around the world—and you’re just getting started.
I’m excited to remain on the Uber Board and continue to help where I can. I want to thank Travis for his leadership, vision and fortitude and for or bringing me in and teaching this old dog new tricks. I’ve learned a lot from him, and about myself, through this journey. I’ll stand ready to help him in any way.
I’ve also learned an amazing amount from watching Rachel Whetstone work her organizational and management magic. I will miss our collaborations and her one-of-a-kind witticisms greatly.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.