Jeff Chiu / AP

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has retained the Benenson Strategy Group, run by Joel Benenson, a top staffer on Hillary Clinton's last presidential campaign. The hiring comes after speculation that Mark Zuckerberg could seek public office.

"Any work done with BSG will be focused on CZI's efforts around science, education, and other policy areas," said a source with knowledge of the situation, which was first reported by Politico. "It is not political in nature."

Our thought bubble: There are reasons why CZI would want to have access to public opinion polling. It is making donations and investments on contentious topics like the future of education, criminal justice and housing. But although Zuckerberg has said he isn't running for office, he and his wife, doctor Priscilla Chan, are only stoking those rumors by hiring a man who boasts in the first sentence of his official bio of being "the only Democratic pollster in history to have played a leading role in three winning presidential campaigns."

The bigger picture: Zuckerberg and Chan are baking political advocacy into their high profile philanthropy. Several of CZI's top communications staffers are veterans of Democratic politics. And its payroll includes David Plouffe, who masterminded Barack Obama's first run, and Sara El-Amine, the former chief of Obama's outside organizing group.

"As a philanthropic organization focused on a number of substantive issues including science, education, housing and criminal justice reform, any research efforts we undertake would be in support of that work," a spokesperson for CZI told Axios. Benenson's firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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In photos: Thousands evacuated as Southern California fire grows

A plane makes a retardant drop on a ridge at the Apple Fire north of Banning in Riverside County, which "doubled in size" Saturday, per KTLA. Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A massive wildfire that prompted mandatory evacuations in Southern California over the weekend burned 26,450 acres and was 5% contained by Monday afternoon, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The big picture: As California remains an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., some 15 separate fires are raging across the state. About 7,800 people were under evacuation orders from the Apple Fire, about 75 miles east of Los Angeles, as hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze. CalFire said Monday that a malfunction involving a "diesel-fueled vehicle emitting burning carbon from the exhaust system" started the Apple Fire.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 18,178,736 — Total deaths: 691,111 — Total recoveries — 10,835,789Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 4,698,335 — Total deaths: 155,331 — Total recoveries: 1,468,689 — Total tests: 57,543,852Map.
  3. Politics: White House will require staff to undergo randomized coronavirus testing — Pelosi says Birx "enabled" Trump on misinformation.
  4. Sports: 13 members of St. Louis Cardinals test positive, prompting MLB to cancel Tigers series — Former FDA chief says MLB outbreaks should be warning sign for schools.
  5. 1 🎥 thing: "Tenet" may be the first major film to get a global pandemic release.

Twitter faces FTC fine of up to $250 million over alleged privacy violations

Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket

The Federal Trade Commission has accused Twitter of using phone numbers and emails from its users to make targeted ads between 2013 and 2019, Twitter said in an SEC filing published Monday.

Why it matters: Twitter estimates that the FTC's draft complaint, which was sent a few days after its Q2 earnings report, could cost the company between $150 million and $250 million. The complaint is unrelated to the recent Twitter hack involving a bitcoin scam.