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No Aaron Rodgers, third-party candidate RFK Jr., picks Nicole Shanahan, who spent $4 million on Kennedy Super Bowl ad



TOP PHOTO: FILE - Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) walks off the field after the NFC championship NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. AP Photo/Morry Gash)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Robert F. Kennedy Jr. chose Nicole Shanahan on Tuesday to be his vice presidential pick, adding a wealthy but nationally unknown figure to his independent White House bid that’s trying to appeal to voters disaffected by a rematch of the 2020 election.

Shanahan, 38, is a California lawyer, who’s never held elected office. She leads Bia-Echo Foundation, a private foundation that, according to her LinkedIn, invests in “reproductive longevity & equality, criminal justice reform and a healthy & livable planet.”

Kennedy had previously signaled interest in picking a celebrity or a household name such as NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers, “Dirty Jobs” star Mike Rowe or former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who was a wrestler and actor.

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. right, waves on stage with Nicole Shanahan, after announcing her as his running mate, during a campaign event, Tuesday, March 26, 2024, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

According to campaign finance records, Shanahan has long donated to Democratic candidates, including giving the maximum amount allowed to Kennedy when he was still pursuing that party’s nomination before switching to an independent bid in October.

It was unclear if Shanahan would use her own money on the campaign, but she has already opened her wallet to back Kennedy.

She was a driving force and the primary donor behind a Super Bowl ad produced by a pro-Kennedy super PAC, American Values 2024, for which she contributed $4 million. In response to criticism following the ad’s release, the super PAC said its “idea, funding, and execution came primarily” from Shanahan.

The super PAC can accept unlimited funds but is legally barred from coordinating with Kennedy’s team.

But as a candidate for vice president, Shanahan can give unlimited sums to the campaign directly. That’s potentially a huge boost for Kennedy’s expensive push to get on the ballot in all 50 states, an endeavor he has said will cost $15 million and require collecting more than 1 million signatures.

Kennedy, a former Democrat, made the announcement in Oakland, California, where Shanahan was raised in what she describes as an impoverished family.

“Nicole and I both left the Democratic Party,” he said. “Our values didn’t change. The Democratic Party did.”

Allies for both Joe Biden and Trump Trump attacked Kennedy and Shanahan on Tuesday, reflecting the uncertainty about how voters might respond to an independent ticket that has little chance of winning Electoral College votes but could draw votes across the spectrum.

Without the backing of a party, Kennedy faces an arduous task to get on the ballot, with varying rules across the 50 states. He’s picking a running mate now because about half of the states require him to designate one before he can apply for ballot access.

In Nevada, Democratic Secretary of State Francisco Aguilar said in a March 7 letter to independent candidates that they must nominate a vice presidential candidate before collecting signatures. The letter came days after Kennedy’s campaign announced he’d collected enough signatures in the state.

Kennedy acknowledged the hurdles he faces and urged voters to “take a risk” and vote for him, saying the biggest obstacle to his campaign is the belief that he can’t win.

In a nearly 30-minute speech introducing herself to Kennedy supporters, Shanahan echoed the critique at the heart of Kennedy’s campaign — that both major parties, the media and the U.S. government are beholden to greedy profiteers. She also embraced his discredited anti-vaccine message.

“It wasn’t until I met Bobby and people supporting him that I felt any hope in the outcome of this election,” Shanahan said.

She was married four years to Google co-founder Sergey Brin, so Shanahan is deeply enmeshed in the Silicon Valley technology culture that Kennedy frequently critiques.

But he said her connections would help her confront the tech industry’s power and influence, and her knowledge of artificial intelligence could steer the government to nurture transformative technologies.

Outside the performing arts venue, where Kennedy announced his pick, broken-down cars, discarded bicycles, tents and all manner of household goods took up the sidewalk and a park, a visual reminder of the housing crisis that has plagued California.

Speakers who entertained the crowd before Kennedy took the stage included

  • Angela Stanton-King, a woman pardoned by then-President Donald Trump for her role in a car theft ring that led to a 2004 federal conspiracy conviction and two years in prison
  • Metta World Peace, the NBA all-star player formerly known as Ron Artest
  • Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford Medical School professor who questioned the efficacy of lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential launch event last year.

Some members of Kennedy’s family have publicly criticized his views. Dozens of Kennedy family members sent a message when they posed with Biden at a St. Patrick’s Day reception at the White House in a photo his sister Kerry Kennedy posted to social media.

“He’s a spoiler. He’s tried to coast on his family legacy and the goodwill they have in the African American community,” Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Austin Davis said of Kennedy on a conference call with reporters organized by the DNC. “But the Kennedy family has denounced this lame attempt and they’ve quite frankly stood with President Biden.”

Republicans, likewise, worry Kennedy’s anti-establishment bent and skepticism about the response to COVID-19 could entice voters who might otherwise vote for Trump.

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a far-left radical that supports reparations, backs the Green New Deal, and wants to ban fracking,” said Alex Pfeiffer, a spokesperson for the pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Inc. “It’s no surprise he would pick a Biden donor leftist as his running mate.”

An anti-vaccine group Kennedy led has a lawsuit pending against a number of news organizations, among them The Associated Press, accusing them of violating antitrust laws by taking action to identify misinformation, including about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines.

Kennedy took leave from the group when he announced his run for president but is listed as one of its attorneys in the lawsuit.

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