Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire co-founder of Facebook Inc., welcomed New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to his California home, holding his first political fundraiser as demonstrators outside protested the Republican’s stance on women’s health funding.
Guests including Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state under President George W. Bush, arrived last night at the Palo Alto home of Zuckerberg, 28, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, in black sedans mixed with the occasional Maserati, Ferrari, BMW and Mercedes. Attire was mixed, with Rice in a yellow jacket, black top and gold necklace, while a man in a black Audi came in jeans and a hoodie.
The governor, 50, is seeking re-election this year and has been raising funds in California since Feb. 11. Christie has said Zuckerberg’s gathering showed that support for his policies extends to people who generally aren’t connected to Republican politics. About 40 protesters greeted party-goers.
“When we heard that Mark Zuckerberg was going to be inviting his wealthy Silicon Valley friends to raise money for Chris Christie, we thought they needed to see a bunch of us out here,” said Becky Bond, one of about 40 men and women gathered on the street outside the home, many carrying blue signs reading, “Zuck + Chris, hands off Planned Parenthood.”
Bond, political director of CREDO Action, an activist network affiliated with mobile phone provider CREDO Mobile, said her group was “delivering the message that to give money to Chris Christie, even at Mark Zuckerberg’s house, is funding the war on women.”
The first Republican elected New Jersey governor since 1997, Christie has blocked Democrats’ efforts to raise taxes on millionaires, add funding for schools and women’s health, and allow gay marriage. He has also battled with public-employee unions over pensions and benefits.
The event was Zuckerberg’s idea, Christie told reporters on Jan. 25. The two met in 2010 when the chief executive officer of the world’s largest social-networking service, announced plans to donate $100 million to assist schools in Newark, New Jersey’s most populous city.
“Mark and Priscilla have worked closely with Governor Christie on education reform in the Newark school system,” said a Facebook spokesman, Andrew Noyes. “They admire his leadership on education reform and other issues and look forward to continuing their important work together on behalf of Newark’s school children.”
Three Palo Alto police officers stood outside the front gate of Zuckerberg’s home, which is set back from a residential street behind tall trees and a brick wall.
“One, two, three, four, this is not the Jersey Shore,” the demonstrators chanted. “Five, six, seven, eight, Zuck send Christie to his state.”
Anti-Christie groups, including gay-rights organizations and unions, are using Facebook to urge Zuckerberg to “unfriend Chris Christie.” Some change their profile pictures to a photo that says “Friends Don’t Let Friends Veto Equality.”
Zuckerberg, who started his company in his Harvard University dorm room in 2004, is expanding his role beyond the day-to-day duties of running Facebook, which has more than 1 billion users.
Zuckerberg is listed as “no preference” on voter rolls in his home county of Santa Clara, said Elma Rosas, a spokeswoman for the Registrar of Voters. She said he voted in the 2008 and 2012 general elections.
In early 2011, Zuckerberg joined other technology executives to dine with President Barack Obama. That April, Zuckerberg hosted the president in a town-hall meeting at Facebook’s headquarters, appearing with Obama on stage as he fielded questions. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg held one with Christie later that year.
Christie is enjoying a record 74 percent approval rating for his response to Hurricane Sandy, up from 56 percent before the Oct. 29 storm, according to a Quinnipiac University poll on Jan. 23. He led his presumptive Democratic challenger, state Senator Barbara Buono, by 41 percentage points in the polling.
The governor raised $2.1 million for his re-election bid through December, while Buono raised $212,927, according to campaign-finance reports.
Rice, who now teaches political science at nearby Stanford University, declined to answer when asked what she thought about the event as she left.
“I’m here privately,” she said, then slipped into the passenger side of a silver Lexus sport-utility vehicle and drove off.