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How Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes could use his fortune to help break up big tech

Max Zahn
Reporter

Facebook (FB) co-founder Chris Hughes, who on Thursday called to break up the social networking giant, is already a major donor in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, suggesting he will use his hundreds of millions to push Washington D.C. toward forceful action on big tech.

Among the recipients of his largess is Elizabeth Warren, who has made the breakup of companies like Facebook, Google (GOOGGOOGL), and Amazon (AMZN) a key part of her campaign platform. Hughes gave the maximum allowable donation of $2,800 to Warren’s presidential campaign in February, months after he gave $10,400 to her joint fundraising committee.

This year he has already given the maximum allowable donation of $2,800 to five Democratic presidential candidates: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Warren.

He also gave $2,700 to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is also a Democratic presidential candidates.

Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook Inc., speaks during a news conference at the 11th World Knowledge Forum in Seoul, South Korea, on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010. The forum ends today. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Hughes is a strategic mouthpiece for the 21st-century trust-busting movement, invoking his credibility with the tech community — and his personal history with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg — in service of downsizing the company Hughes helped build.

‘It is time to break up Facebook’

“We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be,” Hughes wrote Thursday in an op-ed for The New York Times. He then addressed his friend and former colleague: “Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American.”

“It is time to break up Facebook,” Hughes added.

But Hughes, who was a spokesman for Facebook in its early days, will likely prove more than that for the campaign to break up big tech.

Boasting a net worth estimated at $430 million, he is putting his money where his mouth is.

Hardly new to political donations, Hughes gave over $175,000 to political action committees in support of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In 2017, he gave $45,000 to The People’s House Project, a group that helped working-class and minority candidates run for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Hughes’s spouse, activist and Democrat Sean Eldridge, ran an unsuccessful campaign for an upstate New York U.S. House seat in 2014.

In March, Senator Elizabeth Warren called for the breakup of major tech companies, and in April lawmakers proposed a pair of bills that would regulate Google, Facebook, and others. Republican representative Greg Walden, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said of the companies: “If responsibility doesn’t flow, then regulation will."

“The American government needs to do two things: break up Facebook’s monopoly and regulate the company to make it more accountable to the American people,” Hughes wrote on Thursday.

Correction: A prior version of the story wrongly stated that Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes gave $250 to the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. The donor was a different individual named Chris Hughes.

Max Zahn is a reporter for Yahoo Finance.

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