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RFK Jr running mate injects needed cash in independent's campaign

Published 04/19/2024, 02:04 PM
Updated 04/19/2024, 03:20 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Nicole Shanahan greet people as she becomes the vice presidential candidate of Kennedy, in Oakland, California., U.S., March 26, 2024. REUTERS/Laure Andrillon/File Photo

By Stephanie Kelly

(Reuters) - The role Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s running mate, Nicole Shanahan, will play in his White House bid is coming into focus, as the wealthy lawyer injects millions of dollars into their independent campaign and amplifies their stances on social media.

Shanahan, a political neophyte tapped in March to be the independent candidate Kennedy's vice presidential pick, gave $2 million one day after her candidacy was announced, campaign filings showed this week.

That money allowed the campaign to stay out of the red during an expensive push to be listed on state election ballots alongside Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican candidate Donald Trump. Kennedy's campaign raised $5.4 million in March and spent $4.5 million, the filings showed.

Kennedy recently gained ballot access in Michigan, a key battleground state, his campaign said Thursday. He is already on the ballot in Utah and has collected the necessary signatures to be on the ballot in New Hampshire, Nevada, Hawaii, North Carolina, Idaho, Nebraska, and Iowa, it added.

Shanahan, the former wife of Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) co-founder Sergey Brin, previously gave $4 million to a pro-Kennedy super PAC, an outside spending group that has no contribution limits, to help fund an ad in this year's NFL Super Bowl, she told the New York Times.

The dual role being played by Shanahan of both messenger and financial powerhouse is unique. "I can't think of instances where the vice presidential candidate has been a major donor," said Joel Goldstein, a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law.

Still largely unknown, Shanahan has gradually offered more of her policy stances on social media and in podcasts, but since her elevation to the ticket has not apparently conducted interviews with traditional news outlets. The Kennedy campaign declined a request for an interview with Shanahan.

She was a guest on Stanford University Professor Jay Bhattacharya's podcast earlier this month to discuss chronic diseases, fertility issues and the free-speech rights of advocates who opposed pandemic-era lockdowns.

Shanahan writes frequently on social media platform X about health-related issues, including skepticism around the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

A variety of institutions, including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deem the vaccines safe.

Kennedy, known for his anti-vaccine advocacy, has used podcasts like "The Joe Rogan Experience" and social media in a bid to attract younger voters dissatisfied by the choice between Biden and Trump, who are 81 and 77 years old, respectively.

Kennedy is backed by 15% of registered voters, versus 39% for Biden and 38% for Trump, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Shanahan will join Kennedy in a virtual event on Monday for Earth Day, where they will discuss "why protecting the environment is essential to protecting the health of Americans," Shanahan said on X.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Nicole Shanahan greet people as she becomes the vice presidential candidate of Kennedy, in Oakland, California., U.S., March 26, 2024. REUTERS/Laure Andrillon/File Photo

She traveled earlier this month to Yuma, an Arizona town on the Mexico border, and afterwards detailed the campaign's emphasis on border security, along with pathways for legal immigration. In another post, she highlighted her own mother's emigration from China to the U.S.

On abortion, a key issue for many voters after the 2022 Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, Shanahan wrote on X earlier this month that the idea that anyone could control her body is "wrong," but that she would "not feel right terminating a viable life living inside of me, especially if I am both healthy and that baby is healthy."

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