A new Koch? RFK Jr.’s running mate is a major campaign financer

Los Angeles, California – California is often called a political money machine because of the frequency with which candidates from both parties come in to raise campaign money from wealthy donors. In the case of Nicole Shanahan, the running mate of independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the candidate is also, in effect, the bank.

Kennedy turned to Shanahan to bankroll his bid against President Joe Biden and Republican candidate-in-waiting, former President Donald Trump. Shanahan, 38, is a Bay Area attorney and entrepreneur who has never held public office. But more importantly, she is the former wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and her divorce settlement has made her fabulously wealthy.

Kennedy, son and namesake of the late Attorney General and New York Democratic Senator Robert F. Kennedy, asked Shanahan for an independent ticket for the White House, which was already heavily fraught with vaccine skepticism and conspiracy theories. Kennedy has long promoted the scientifically debunked claim of a causal link between vaccines and autism. Shanahan seems to have a similar mentality. She “has denounced in vitro fertilization for years, calling it ‘one of the biggest lies told about women’s health today’.” Politics reported.

As for Shanahan’s ability to help finance Kennedy’s independent campaign, specific numbers won’t be available until after the second fundraising quarter, which ends at midnight on June 30. Before running on the Kennedy ticket on March 26, however, Shanahan donated the maximum individual amount to his campaign and $4 million to the main super PAC, in support of his bid to air a retro-themed Super Bowl commercial to send. In addition to supporting American Values ​​2024, she donated $500,000 to another super PAC that supported Kennedy, Common Sense PAC.

It is an open question what effect a well-financed Kennedy-Shanahan ticket would have on the looming rematch between Biden and Trump. For a time, it appeared to be taking crucial votes away from the Democratic president, at least as indicated by comparing the three-way polls of Biden/Kennedy/Trump to five-way polls including far-left candidates Cornel West and Jill Stein.

Two recent major national polls show Biden doing better in a five-way race than in a two-way race. Biden goes from down 2 points to up 2 points nationally when non-major party candidates are included, according to NBC News. In the latest Marist poll, Biden leads Trump by three points head-to-head and by five points in a five-way race.

Given that West and Stein are polling 5% in the first poll and 4% in the last (presumably very few of Trump’s votes), it’s reasonable to assume that Kennedy is starting to interfere with the MAGA vote to an extent that will draw attention of Trump pulls. And that has started to happen.

“’Junior’ is completely anti-Gun, an extreme environmentalist who makes the Green New Crooks look conservative, a big tax payer and open borders advocate, and an anti-military/veterinarian,” Trump said in a 26 Truth Social post April.

Still, Democrats are deeply concerned about Kennedy, especially now that he and Shanahan are gaining voting rights in key states. The Democratic National Committee hired a prominent sharp-elbowed party operative, Lis Smith, to thwart the progress of the Kennedy-Shanahan ticket.

“There is nothing subtle about what the Republican Party and their media apparatus are doing to @RobertKennedyJr – they are supporting him to corrupt Trump,” Smith said. posted on X on April 5.

Prominent Democratic elected officials also regularly denounce Kennedy and, by extension, Shanahan, who has made virtually no campaign appearances since being tapped for the ticket. “When people go to the polls, they will see that there are really only two choices. Because if you’re a Democrat and you vote for anyone other than Joe Biden, you’re throwing away your vote,” Governor JB Pritzker (D-IL) said on CNN on April 21.

Rich running mate, nothing new

There is a certain irony in Kennedy turning to a wealthy running mate to support his campaign. He is a grandson of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., the US ambassador from Wall Street who became an isolationist US ambassador to Britain, financing his sons’ political careers.

In 1958, John F. Kennedy, the Massachusetts senator who would become America’s 35th president, joked about his 1960 White House ambitions at the Gridiron Club in Washington, DC.

“I have just received the following telegram from my generous father: ‘Dear Jack – don’t buy a single vote more than you need to – I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide,’ he said.

The Kennedy family patriarch, who died in 1969, set up a family trust for each of his thirty grandchildren, which today is worth several million dollars. Forbes reported in 2023 that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife, Control your enthusiasm actress Cheryl Hines, are worth approximately $15 million. That’s based on an analysis of the couple’s income, property and debts, as drawn from Kennedy’s legally required financial disclosure, which he filed in June of that year, when he was still in the Democratic fold and challenging Biden for the presidential nomination of the party.

Shanahan is not the first vice presidential candidate to receive a ticket to help finance his campaign. In 1980, David Koch, a member of the second generation of the family that founded Koch Industries, was the Libertarian Party’s 1980 vice presidential candidate. As understudy to presidential candidate Ed Clark, Koch, a political activist, philanthropist and chemical engineer by training, contributed heavily to the ticket. Of the $3.5 million the campaign raised, $2.1 million came from Koch, Rode reported in 2014.

The money for television advertising and other promotions undoubtedly helped the Libertarian ticket win 1.06% of the vote. That was good for fourth place behind the presidential winner, Republican Ronald Reagan, his defeated Democratic incumbent, President Jimmy Carter, and John Anderson, a liberal Republican congressman from Illinois who ran as an independent candidate.

Clark-Koch’s Libertarian ticket performed particularly strongly in Alaska, gaining 11.66%. That’s still the best showing of the one-state Libertarian ticket. However, in 2016, Libertarian presidential candidate, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who was Republican from 1995 to 2003, won 3.3% of the vote nationally. In New Mexico, Johnson won 9.3% of the vote in his home state, behind Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the 2016 winner, incoming President Donald Trump.

The Libertarian Party’s 1980 platform also had some lasting consequences for politics and public policy. It foreshadowed some social changes decades later, such as broad, if not universal, support for gay rights. And, to some extent, curbing welfare programs. A 1996 federal law, enacted by the Republican Congress and Democratic President Bill Clinton, gave states wide leeway to cut social services.

But most of his ideas from that campaign remain fanciful today, such as the proposed elimination of Social Security, the Federal Reserve Board, minimum wage laws, corporate taxes, all price supports and subsidies for agriculture and business, while abolishing federal legislative bodies. such as the FBI, CIA, SEC and several others.

Koch, who died in 2019, was also not the first vice presidential candidate to finance a significant portion of the campaign in which he participated. The gamble went back 76 years before that.

In 1904, West Virginia industrialist Henry Gassaway Davis was chosen by the Democrats at their national convention in St. Louis as the running mate of the party’s presidential candidate, Alton B. Parker, chief justice of the New York State Court of Appeals. Democrats made little secret of why they chose the 81-year-old business magnate — his wealth. And Davis was happy to play along.

A self-made businessman, Davis became a railroad executive before turning to mining and banking as founder of the Potomac and Piedmont Coal and Railroad Company. He was a member of the House of Delegates during the early years of West Virginia’s statehood and then a senator from 1871 to 1883.


In the 1904 campaign, Davis, as Parker’s Democratic ticket, faced formidable odds against the Republican ticket of President Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Party’s vice presidential candidate, Charles Fairbanks, a senator from Indiana. Roosevelt had inherited the presidency as vice president after the assassination of President William McKinley in September 1901. Roosevelt was able to run for a full term and boast antitrust measures against major corporations at a time of great public distrust of concentrated power and federal efforts for land conservation, among other achievements.

Davis donated approximately $185,000 (several million in 2024 dollars, depending on currency calculations), which ultimately amounted to more than a third of the entire Democratic presidential campaign budget. But the generosity did little good. In November, the Parker-Davis ticket lost in a landslide to Roosevelt and Fairbanks, 336 to 140 in the Electoral College and 56% to 38% in the popular vote.