Mark Zuckerberg is using his Facebook fortune to tackle social issues

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has spent $45 million on criminal justice and housing reform.

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The will-Zuckerberg-run, won't-Zuckerberg-run-for-President speculation has driven most of the news about the Facebook cofounder this year. But he, along with his wife Priscilla Chan, have been quietly funding two particular progressive agendas with their Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) on top of its wide-spanning philanthropy. The CZI has quietly given a total of $45 million to groups addressing two specific causes: ending mass incarceration and improving affordable housing.

That news was all publicly released by CZI; Vice News made sense of the multiple announcements and painted the picture of where much of that money was being directed. Most of that $45 million went to groups addressing criminal justice and housing since January 2017, and the organization is ramping up donations, including grants to nine groups in the past five weeks.

CZI officials explained to Vice News that it donates to groups who can prove they've successfully brought change by lobbying for legislation, getting ballot measures passed and influence city officials. The organization has given millions to groups that funded reform of sentencing laws for nonviolent criminals, pass laws that kept youth under 18 from being tried as adults and influenced NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to announce the closing of Riker's Island. In Facebook's backyard, the CZI has given a grant to UC Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation and invested $5 million in the Y Combinator startup Landed that helps line up affordable housing for teachers.

While the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has similarly philanthropic goals as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, the CZI is a limited liability company (LLC), a private firm, instead of a non-profit. That means it has less regulation on where it lends its money, but also no requirement to say where its money is going, who it's doing business with or how it's influencing politics. What we know about its donations is what the CZI has chosen to disclose.

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